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B.C. declares provincial state of emergency over COVID-19 pandemic
VANCOUVER -- The B.C. government has now declared a provincial state of emergency over the growing COVID-19 pandemic.
The new measure, announced Wednesday by Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, is in addition to the public health emergency declared the previous day by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
Farnworth said the provincial emergency will help the government support Dr. Henry and the Ministry of Health in their “swift, powerful response to the COVID pandemic.”
“This declaration will make sure federal, provincial and local resources are delivered in a joint, co-ordinated way to protect the people of our province. This is an all hands on deck approach,” Farnworth told reporters at a news conference in downtown Vancouver.
It also allows the government to prohibit the reselling of certain necessary supplies – a practice that has drawn widespread public outrage in recent weeks.
“There is no place for anybody, either individuals or retailers, taking advantage of what is an unprecedented health situation in this province,” Farnworth said. “We take this issue very, very seriously.”
Emergency powers also allow the government to enact food rationing protocols and set fuel prices, though the minister suggested neither should be necessary.
Farnworth said the province has been in regular communication with the Retail Council of Canada, and that supply chains are “in good shape” – but he still urged people not to hoard food and supplies at the potential expense of others in their communities.
The most recent provincial states of emergency were declared during the historic wildfire seasons of 2017 and 2018, and Farnworth encouraged people to respond with a similar sense of community responsibility.
In the time of COVID-19, that means following the advice of health officials and washing your hands, maintaining social distance, and, perhaps most crucially, staying home while sick.
“The way communities came together during those events was nothing short of extraordinary. We’re now asking all people in this province for their support again,” Farnworth said.
“We are going to get through this together – all of us.”
In addition to the emergency declaration, the province announced it is resuming the B.C. legislature on Monday with a reduced number of members who will be able to approve any additional measures necessary to assist British Columbians during the crisis.