British Columbia

What you need to know about COVID-19 in B.C. on March 21, 2020

The last week has brought a complete upheaval to daily life in B.C., as everything from recreation centres to libraries to nightclubs has shut down in an attempt to halt the spread of COVID-19.

Keep a distance of two metres from other people outdoors, officials say

The last week has brought a complete upheaval to daily life in B.C., as everything from nightclubs to playgrounds and libraries has shut down in an attempt to halt the spread of COVID-19. (Franny Karlinsky/CBC)


  • B.C. has confirmed a total of 424 cases of COVID-19, including 76 new cases on Saturday.
  • Ten people have died, including nine connected to the outbreak at the Lynn Valley Care Centre.
  • The U.S.-Canada border was closed to non-essential travellers at midnight.
  • B.C. has ordered all restaurants and bars to shut down dine-in operations.
  • The provincial government says thousands of hospital beds are available to COVID-19 patients.
  • Camping, washrooms closed at provincial parks and road access closed to Mount Seymour and Cypress Mountain provincial parks.
  • The Vancouver Park Board and Metro Vancouver are asking people to enjoy the outdoors responsibly by keeping a two-metre distance from others and not congregate in groups.
  • North Vancouver has closed Quarry Rock and Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge indefinitely.
  • Island Health is only allowing essential visits to its facilities.
  • Restaurants will now be able to sell sealed liquor with the purchase of a take-out meal

​​​​​​What you need to know today

The last week has brought a complete upheaval to daily life in B.C., as everything from nightclubs to playgrounds and libraries has shut down in an attempt to halt the spread of COVID-19.

On Saturday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry ordered personal service establishments like salons, spas, massage and tattoo parlours to close. 

On Friday, Henry ordered restaurants and bars in B.C. to stop all dine-in services and move to takeout and delivery only. She ordered bars to shut down earlier in the week, and said any business that can't keep a distance of one or two metres between people should do the same.

Both Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix reminded British Columbians that self-isolation measures are orders, and are not optional. 

"That is your obligation to your loved ones, to your community. It's also an order," Dix said on Saturday.

"It's everyone's obligation to comply."

Henry said the province can enforce the measures if required, including by issuing fines.

Gatherings of more than 50 people are banned, and working from home has become the new norm. British Columbians have been reminded again and again about the importance of social distancing, and that things like play dates, dinner parties and basketball games are now verboten.

For many British Columbians, life these days is largely lived at home, in small family units, with only virtual connections to friends and coworkers.

Business closures, travel restrictions and the economic slowdown in general have also brought massive jobs losses — 500,000 people in Canada have applied for employment insurance in the last week.

424 cases in B.C.

The province confirmed another 76 cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, bringing B.C.'s total to 424. Ten people have now died of the disease, including nine connected to the outbreak at Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver, where 37 residents and 19 workers have tested positive for the coronavirus.

There are now five long-term care facilities in the region with cases of the illness diagnosed in residents or staff.

A staff member at the Delta View Care Centre in Surrey has been diagnosed with COVID-19. This is the second long-term care facility in the Fraser Health region that has had a staff member test positive for the disease. 

The facility says there have been no other cases and additional measures are in place to check staff and residents for symptoms. Long-term care staff currently working there are being asked to not work at any other facility. 

Of B.C.'s confirmed cases, 27 people are now in hospital, with 12 in intensive care, and seven people have fully recovered.

Meanwhile, the provincial government says that by ordering the cancellation of non-urgent elective surgeries, it has made 2,398 acute care hospital beds available if they are needed for serious COVID-19 cases.

The province is now in a state of emergency, as well as a public health emergency. Many municipalities have also declared local states of emergency that give them the power to crack down on those who aren't following the orders of public health officials.

Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver has been the centre of a major outbreak of COVID-19. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Island Heath announced it will only allow essential visits for patients who are critically ill, receiving end-of-life care, and for those who are frail and need an escort for their safety.

Visitors who meet the criteria must not have a cough, runny nose, fever, sore throat or shortness of breath, and can't have travelled outside of Canada in the last 14 days, said the health authority.

Border closure begins

This week, Canada and the U.S. finalized their mutual agreement to shut the border to non-essential travellers, and the closure took effect on Friday at midnight.

That follows Canada's move to bar entry to virtually all travellers who aren't Canadian citizens or permanent residents. 

The Canada-U.S. border was closed to all non-essential travel in both directions on Friday night. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Canadians abroad have been told to come home while they still can, and everyone returning from any international travel has been ordered to self-isolate for 14 days. 

Meanwhile, Canadian residents have been advised not to leave the country. As a result, airlines are reporting sharp declines in scheduled flights, leading to major layoffs.

Help for renters 'on the way'

On Saturday morning B.C. Housing Minister Selina Robinson said "help is on the way" for renters during the COVID-19 crisis, and more details will be provided early in the week. 

A moratorium on evictions due to non-payment of rent in housing that is managed by B.C. Housing has been introduced. She said work is also being done with social and supportive housing providers to make sure the same moratorium is in place for any homes receiving funding from B.C. Housing.

Robinson said they are looking at the possibility of broader measures to prevent evictions, but did not provide specifics. 

Shane Simpson, minister of social development and poverty reduction, said preparations are being made to help the most vulnerable people in the province, including those living on the street or in shelters.

Park and outdoor closures

On Friday B.C. Parks closed off access roads to Mount Seymour and Cypress provincial parks, and restricted access to some lower-level trails in those areas. 

Day hiking is still available in most other provincial parks, Environment Minister George Heyman said. However, playgrounds and campgrounds are closed until at least April 30. Washrooms and day-use facilities are also closed. 

Metro Vancouver said its parks remain open as do parks in Vancouver. Officials ask people to enjoy the outdoors responsibly by keeping a two-metre distance and avoid crowds. 

In North Vancouver, officials are shutting down Quarry Rock and Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge indefinitely as of 7 a.m. Sunday because people weren't following directives to stay far enough away from each other.

Important reminders:

Health officials widely agree the most important thing you can do to prevent coronavirus and other illnesses is to wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face. 

The World Health Organization said more than 80 per cent of COVID-19 infections are estimated to be mild.

What's happening elsewhere in Canada

As of 5 p.m. PT on Saturday,  there were 1,331 presumptive and confirmed cases in Canada, with 19 deaths and 13 resolved.

  • British Columbia: 424 confirmed, including 10 deaths, 6
  • Ontario: 377 confirmed, including 3 deaths, 6 resolved.
  • Alberta: 226 confirmed, including 1 death.
  • Quebec: 181 confirmed, including 5 deaths, 1 resolved.
  • Saskatchewan: 25 confirmed, 19 presumptive.
  • Nova Scotia: 9 confirmed, 12 presumptive.
  • Manitoba: 18 confirmed, 1 presumptive.
  • New Brunswick: 7 confirmed, 10 presumptive.
  • Canadians quarantined at CFB Trenton: 13 confirmed.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 3 confirmed, 3 presumptive.
  • Prince Edward Island: 2 confirmed.
  • Northwest Territories: 1 confirmed.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Stay home. Isolate yourself and call your local public health authority. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested.

What can I do to protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean.
  • Keep your distance from people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Unless you're already infected, masks won't help you.
  • Be aware of evolving travel advisories to different regions.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at 


  • The provincial Ministry of Health initially said Saturday there were 74 new COVID-19 cases, but later corrected that number to 76. An earlier version of this story carried the incorrect number.
    Mar 21, 2020 5:33 PM PT

With files from The Canadian Press

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