B.C. ramps up coronavirus response, activates provincial pandemic co-ordination plan
Plan prepares for the use of emergency powers if outbreak expands
B.C. is ramping up its response to the coronavirus outbreak, outlining a wide-ranging provincial pandemic co-ordination plan to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The plan focuses on "delaying, containing and preparing the province to minimize serious illness and economic disruption" — first by identifying and containing cases, and then, in its second phase, escalating government co-ordination to quickly direct resources.
Premier John Horgan, Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provided the update just after noon on Friday, in a media briefing that has become routine, as the virus spreads.
The plan prepares for the use of emergency powers set out in the Emergency Program Act and Public Health Act, though Dix said the province is "not at [that] point yet."
Dix said there are four major priorities for the province to contain the spread of coronavirus — protecting the general population, vulnerable citizens, health-care workers and supporting B.C's health-care capacity.
Watch | B.C. Premier John Horgan outlines B.C.'s co-ordinated response to the coronavirus:
He said the province is prepared to work with institutions and businesses to help them manage "a sustained three to four month outbreak."
The plan includes working with grocery stores to maintain supplies, public transportation, tourism and establishing protocols for cruise ships.
On Thursday eight more presumptive cases of COVID-19, including one involving a woman who has no recent travel history, were identified in the province. There have now been 21 positive tests for the virus in B.C. At least four patients have recovered completely, and only one patient — a woman in her 80s — has required treatment in a hospital.
No new cases were announced on Friday.
'Ready to respond'
Horgan announced the creation of a deputy ministers committee that will guide the provincial government's strategy, reporting to a committee of cabinet.
"We're ready to respond as conditions change," he said.
"I believe we're on the right track, but we need to be vigilant."
The province will also add four additional labs to test for the virus should be up and running by next week, said the premier. New machines will also be coming in the next month.
Horgan said B.C. has been a world leader in the response to the virus. Since January, B.C. has tested 2,803 samples from 2,008 individuals — until recently, more samples than had been tested in the entire U.S.
Horgan also said he'd been in contact with the governor of Washington state, where the number of confirmed cases has now surpassed 250.
B.C. officials are reminding anyone who feels unwell to stay home from work or school and to call 811 or their health practitioner if they have symptoms of coronavirus infection, such as a fever or cough.