British Columbia

B.C. declares provincial state of emergency to respond to COVID-19

B.C. has declared a provincial state of emergency to allow for the preservation of supply chains delivering groceries and other essential items to the province during the COVID-19 pandemic.

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth calls for 'all hands on deck' approach to combat COVID-19

B.C. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth declared a provincial state of emergency Wednesday in B.C., to enable a swifter government response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

B.C. has declared a provincial state of emergency to allow for the preservation of supply chains delivering groceries and other essential items to the province during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth made the declaration Wednesday, saying the proclamation ensures federal, provincial and local resources are delivered in a quick, joint, "co-ordinated way" to protect British Columbians during the outbreak.

"This is an all-hands-on-deck approach," said Farnworth.

Declaring a state of emergency allows the province to enact any provincial emergency measures needed to respond or lessen the impact of an emergency situation. On Wednesday, Farnworth said that includes securing the critical supply chains to ensure British Columbians continue to have access to essential goods and services and that any infrastructure needed for the government response to COVID-19 is readily available.

The state of emergency is initially in effect for 14 days, but can be extended if need be. 

Public health emergency also in effect

The pandemic has created an unprecedented economic slowdown and health care response in B.C. Public spaces, retailers, restaurants and other community hubs have temporarily shut down or scaled back as business and health leaders urge people to stay home and avoid crowds to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

The provincewide state of emergency follows Tuesday's declaration of a public health emergency.

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides an update on B.C.'s response plan to COVID-19 in Vancouver on March 6. Henry declared a public health emergency in the province on Tuesday. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry made that announcement to expand her own powers as well as the power of the Ministry of Health, as the number of cases in the province topped 180.

Farnworth said his announcement Wednesday gives the province further licence to support Henry and health-care officials in their response to COVID-19.

The minister said Wednesday the supply chain of goods in B.C. is currently "in good shape," and said there is no need for residents to hoard food or supplies — echoing an assertion from Premier John Horgan and Finance Minister Carole James on Tuesday.

Legislature to briefly resume

There were 186 cases of COVID-19 in B.C. as of Tuesday, including seven people who had died.

Farnworth, who is also House Leader, said the B.C. Legislature will briefly resume with reduced members on Monday to pass legislation that will ensure continuity of government and make amendments to the Employment Standards Act to help workers in the province during the outbreak.

B.C. previously declared provincial states of emergency during record-breaking wildfire seasons in 1996, 2003, 2017 and 2018.

Six of the deaths related to COVID-19 stem from an outbreak at the Lynn Valley Care Centre long-term care home in North Vancouver. The seventh was a man in his 80s in the Fraser Health region.

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

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