British Columbia

Premier extends state of emergency but says details on reopening B.C. will be unveiled next week

B.C.'s state of emergency, introduced last month in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, has been extended until May 12. 

Provincial state of emergency was first declared on March 18 in response to COVID-19 pandemic

Premier John Horgan addresses reporters with an update on the province's response to the coronavirus. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

B.C.'s state of emergency introduced last month in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been extended until May 12. 

"It's going to take resolute action from all of us to make progress and not give up progress," said Premier John Horgan in announcing the extension. 

The provincial state of emergency was originally declared on March 18 and was last extended on April 15. 

Horgan also said he will outline details next week about lifting restrictions related to the pandemic. 

The premier said the reopening guidelines will be different than other provinces, mostly because B.C. didn't fully lock down its economy, but allowed construction, agriculture and other industries to continue operating.

"The approach in B.C. was to focus on how could we keep sectors operating safely, rather than shutting them down until such time as we could open them up again,'' he said.

Horgan said the reopening plan will focus on ensuring health orders on physical distancing and self-isolation are being practised, so that new COVID-19 cases are kept to a minimum.

"It's not just going to be the flick of a switch,'' said Horgan, who added that the public must have confidence about safely entering businesses and workers must have assurances about their safety as the province takes a "slow, methodical, phased-in approach'' to reopening.

"The only way we build that confidence is to have a set of common protocols, common guidelines, in place to protect workers, in place to protect consumers,'' he said.

Financial stimulus promised for quick rebound

He also said industries important to the economy like the tech sector and film production are positioned to bounce back quickly in B.C. once restrictions are lifted.

"Keep in mind that [Finance Minister] Carole James put aside $1.5 billion for stimulus that we have not touched," said Horgan. "This will be used for our rebound."

According to Horgan, B.C.'s strong financial position has allowed politicians to plot a more cautious and public health-centered return from the pandemic. 

He said it was unlikely schools would reopen in a significant way before September. 

The declaration of a provincial state of emergency allows for the preservation of supply chains of food and other essential items, as well as giving the province powers to enact emergency measures.

A number of restrictions related to housing have been put in place under the current state of emergency, like the banning of evictions and rent hikes. Profiteering and hoarding of food and medical supplies have also been outlawed. 

With files from Canadian Press

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