VANCOUVER -- Dramatic measures are being taken in B.C. to address the spread of novel coronavirus, Mike Farnworth, minister of public safety and solicitor general, announced Thursday.

One of those new measures includes allowing municipal bylaw officers to enforce orders outline by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

"Dr. Henry's orders aren't suggestions. They are the law," Farnworth said at a news conference Thursday.

"To that end we will be enabling municipal bylaw officers to be redeployed to help ensure compliance with the provincial health officer's recommendations and orders. Orders which could carry fines or even jail time."

Those orders include physical distancing, the closure of some businesses and bans on gatherings of more than 50 people.

Other new measures announced Thursday include: 

  • Establishing a provincial supply chain to make sure goods and supplies get where they need to
  • Protecting consumers by banning the resale of food, medical supplies, personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies
  • Ensuring passenger and car ferries provide minimum service levels
  • Suspending all local states of emergencies, except in the City of Vancouver

The update came eight days after B.C. declared a provincial state of emergency over the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Farnworth made the announcement alongside Premier John Horgan.

"It's a stressful time, it's an uncertain time. But people have been resilient," Horgan said, calling today's announcement "unprecedented."

Lockdown could cause confusion: Horgan

But Horgan and Farnworth did not go as far as saying B.C. was under a lockdown. 

In fact, Horgan has previously said that the term could cause "more confusion rather than less" and during Thursday's news conference, he reiterated that the province is taking very strong measures. 

"Dr. Henry has been abundantly clear that if you don't need to be out, stay home. That includes not just travelling to the Okanagan or not travelling to Prince Rupert, it means stay home," Horgan said. 

"I believe that people are looking for terminology to kind of capture these extraordinary times and if 'lockdown' is a term people want to use, fair enough." 

Horgan added the province is continually assessing the pandemic situation in B.C. and will impose stricter measures if needed. 

Local states of emergencies forced to end

In recent days, several local cities like New Westminster and Delta have declared local states of emergency to manage the COVID-19 crisis. But on Thursday, Farnworth said the province is ordering those to end.

"It's more important than ever to coordinate emergency response to better serve British Columbians," he said. "Effective immediately, municipal states of emergency related to COVID-19 are suspended. This will ensure a coordinated approach is taken under the provincially declared state of emergency."

The only exception is in the City of Vancouver, which established its state of emergency under the Vancouver Charter.

"What we have communicated to the City of Vancouver is that while their local state of emergency remains in place … no further additional orders can be taken without the express approval of myself," Farnworth said. 

On Wednesday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced 42 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing B.C.'s total up to 659. At least 14 people have died from the virus in the province, while at least 183 have recovered. 

When B.C. first declared its state of emergency on March 18, there were 231 positive cases in the province. 

At the time, Farnworth said the provincial emergency will help the government support Henry and the Ministry of Health in their "swift, powerful response to the COVID pandemic."

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 staying home while sick. 

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Andrew Weichel