British Columbia

Why B.C. is not rushing toward a 'lockdown' on non-essential businesses

The premier said such a move could "create more confusion, rather than less" but Ontario and the U.K. are forging ahead to close businesses for weeks deemed non-essential.

'Saying lockdown, saying shutdown, is very easy to do but it’s difficult in reality,' premier says

Two people watch a CBC newscast of Premier John Horgan at the Lonsdale Quay Market in North Vancouver. The premier said there is no need for a complete shutdown of non-essential businesses, as some jurisdictions have done, but didn't rule it out in the future. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Premier John Horgan told reporters Monday that shuttering non-essential businesses during the coronavirus crisis was not an approach he preferred.

After unveiling plans for a $5-billion relief package, Horgan was asked whether he was considering an order to close non-essential businesses, a course taken by Ontario and the United Kingdom on Monday to reduce human contact and slow the spread of the disease.

"That, in my opinion, would create more confusion, rather than less," Horgan said. "Saying lockdown, saying shutdown, is very easy to do but it's difficult in reality."

Horgan said the government's efforts are focused on going sector by sector to make sure critical workers are in place in areas like health care, child care and retail as the crisis drags on.

British Columbia Premier John Horgan and Finance Minister Carole James provide a fiscal update on the COVID-19 pandemic. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

Another focus is ensuring WorkSafeBC is looking at work sites to make sure they are safe.

"All of that requires a methodical, thoughtful, science-based approach," Horgan said. "It may well be satisfying to say we're going to shut something down but need to make sure we're doing it in a way that makes sense."

Many workers, he said, are already self-isolating and following the advice of health officials. However, he said, no options were off the table.

Ontario, U.K. shuttering businesses

In Ontario, businesses deemed non-essential will be forced to close Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. for at least 14 days to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

The definition of non-essential businesses will be released Tuesday. 

Premier Doug Ford said people will be able to buy food and medicine and other essential products: "the power will stay on" and telecommunications tools will continue to run. 

There are no plans to close the LCBO and the Beer Store, according to a senior Ontario government source.

In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered Britons to stay home except to to shop for basic necessities, exercise, for a medical need, to provide care or travelling to and from work where absolutely necessary.

The government ordered non-essential shops like clothing stores to close as well.

Speaking earlier in the day, Health Minister Adrian Dix cautioned against drawing conclusions about the strength of any jurisdiction's approach just because it claims to be under a "lockdown."

"Industry sectors that have been excluded from what's sometimes called the California lockdown represent about 65 per cent of the GDP of California," he said at an earlier media availability.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said B.C. has already moved to close many businesses, like restaurants, where people gather closely in enclosed spaces.

With files from Thomson Reuters