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'No likely end in sight': B.C. extends state of emergency; will be longest in province's history
VANCOUVER -- British Columbia's state of emergency has been extended for another two weeks, making it the longest period in the province's history where emergency orders have been in place.
B.C.'s state of emergency was first issued on March 18 and subsequently extended multiple times because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Premier John Horgan announced the extension during a news conference in Victoria Wednesday. Prior to the COVID-19 health emergency, the longest period the province had been under a state of emergency was the 2017 wildfire season.
"We are now exceeding that, with, I have to say, no likely end in sight," Horgan said.
States of emergency, which can only be issued two weeks at a time, allow the government to exercise powers under the Emergency Program Act during a crisis, which include the ability to restrict travel and issue directives to local governments.
Professional sports in B.C.?
The premier was also asked about the possibility of professional hockey returning to Vancouver, and he emphasized that the rules would not be bent to accommodate games.
The National Hockey League announced a plan Tuesday to finish the season, and Vancouver is on the short-list of potential hub cities, but Horgan echoed comments from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, saying the province's focus remains on the health of British Columbians.
"We will not waive the rules that are actually the rules of Canada, which is you require a 14-day isolation period when you're coming into the country," he said.
Horgan said he would not rule out the NHL coming to Vancouver but noted that a plan had not been presented to the province though he is looking forward to seeing one, and he expects the self-isolation requirement for international travellers arriving in B.C. to remain in place for the "foreseeable future."
When it comes to the CFL, Horgan says he would love to see the B.C. Lions have a season this year but acknowledged there would be a number of health and safety issues that need to be addressed beforehand.
The CFL is still waiting to hear if its formal request for federal financial assistance has been granted, and the premier said there have been no formal requests made to B.C. yet.
"At the centre of our activities is focusing on public health and wellness, we'll continue to do that," Horgan said. "I'm always available to talk to the CFL, particularly the Lions and CFL Players' Association about how I can be helpful, but there's been no formal requests at this time."
The premier said, in his view, much of the progress made against COVID-19 in B.C. has been because of the border closure and the self-isolation requirement.
"There's been a lot of activity, making sure people are living by their word and they're living within the plan they gave to us when they arrived in the country," he said.
Possibility of travel
When it comes to international travel, Horgan said he doesn't foresee any changes in the near future and is encouraging residents to stay home or possibly visit other parts of the province, provided it's safe to do so, later in the summer.
"There's a whole bunch of things that we can do right here in British Columbia," he said. "Forty-two thousand people booked campsites on Monday. So there's a lot of British Columbians who have things to do in B.C. that can stimulate our tourism economy."
Ontario long-term care report
When asked about the recent report by the Canadian Armed Forces which revealed the grim state of five long-term care homes in Ontario, Horgan said he was "horrified" by the details but insisted the same issues are not happening in B.C.
"I can say with great certainty that the providers are giving the best care possible under extraordinarily difficult circumstances, and the horror stories that we're seeing out of Quebec and Ontario are not being duplicated here in British Columbia," he said.
New urgent primary care centre in Surrey, MLAs returning to legislature
The premier, along with Health Minister Adrian Dix, also announced the opening of a second urgent primary care centre in Surrey, which would make it the second such facility in that city. Horgan said there are currently 90,000 people without a family doctor in Surrey and that the new care centre would help alleviate some of the pressure on families.
Horgan also announced MLAs will return to the legislature on June 22.
"Some will be here in person, some will be beaming in with technology, but at the end of the day, debate will take place, votes will be cast, and democracy will be well served," he said.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Alyse Kotyk
Watch an American Sign Language translation of the news conference on the provincial government's YouTube page.