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Strict COVID-19 shutdowns are in place in other provinces. Why not B.C.?
VANCOUVER -- As three in five Canadians prepare for life without non-essential businesses and, for many, the ability to go to work, Premier John Horgan insists British Columbia's containment efforts are similar without the need to force the closure of more sectors.
Under a sweeping order taking place midnight Tuesday, Quebec and Ontario will join California, New York, Washington state and the United Kingdom in the forced closure of all non-essential businesses, with residents sternly admonished to stay home and only leave for necessities, like food or medical care, with brief outings to stretch their legs.
"When it comes to a lockdown or a shutdown, it's unprecedented in my experience, that our borders are closed to anyone but essential personnel or essential individuals," said Horgan at a news conference in Victoria, insisting he isn't ruling anything out.
"It's really difficult in reality and the list of exemptions in California, for example, is not unlike the list of exemptions we have today," he insisted. "Rather than get caught up on how we're going to say to business — how we're going to say to workers and the broader economy and use words like 'lockdown' and 'shutdown', that in my opinion would create more confusion rather than less — we're working sector by sector…We do need people working in our retail sector to make sure goods and services to people that desperately need them, particularly those health-care workers on the front lines."
Horgan's counterpart in Ontario emphasized how difficult it was to make such sweeping order, but that it was made on the advice of the province's chief medical officer, Dr. David Williams.
"This is not the time for half measures, this decision was not made lightly," said Premier Doug Ford. "And the gravity of this order does not escape me, but as I've said, from day one, we will and we must take all steps necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19."
Ford's shutdown is scheduled for 14 days, but he warns it could be extended "as the situation evolves."
Speaking to media, Ford said, "It means food will remain on the shelves, it means Ontarians will still have access to their medications and essential products, it means the power will still stay on and telecommunications will continue to run. But it also means that every Ontarian must do their part."
B.C. doctors insist on stricter measures
Family doctors and surgeons in B.C. are increasingly speaking up about their desire for stricter measures and lockdown-style orders throughout the province, something ordinary British Columbians are asking for in growing numbers.
On Friday, Dr. Gerald Da Roza penned a letter to the provincial health officer on behalf of the doctors at Royal Columbian Hospital, urging her "to do more" and that "non-essential business in B.C. should be closed."
He warned "our hospitals will be overwhelmed within a few weeks without drastic action."
Vancouver family doctor and University of British Columbia clinical assistant professor Dr. Anna Wolak said doctors are feeling defeated and outright angry when they see crowds of people ignoring their pleas to stay at home as much as possible. They're urging the public to stay home to avoid getting infected with COVID-19 and overburdening a medical system already struggling to keep up.
"It's like your house is on fire. The firefighters are there trying to put out the fire out and people going out and congregating and ignoring the physical distancing rules, throwing more logs onto the fire from behind so we can't fight it," said Wolak.
"If the province were to say, 'Look, you're not getting it, we need to shut non-essential businesses down,' I would stand behind that because I saw people were taking caution tape off the playground to play."
Feeling the squeeze
Horgan addressed questions about a lockdown and the closure of all non-essential businesses before Washington state Governor Jay Inslee issued a statewide "stay-home order" in a televised address, with restrictions similar to California and New York to curb the spread of the virus.
"This does not mean you can't go outside," Komo News reported of Inslee's address. "We all just need to practice social distancing of at least six feet to protect ourselves."
In the coming days, 158 million Americans and 23 million Canadians will be under orders to stay home and away from work unless their employer is classified as an essential service.
Horgan said he'd be discussing best practices with the premiers and prime minister during Monday afternoon teleconference, but made his position clear.
"We need to be thoughtful," he said. "We need to be driven by the science and the direction we get from public health officials and also the willingness of the private sector to be able to comply with the critical services we need in the days and weeks ahead."