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'We're in this together': B.C. premier extends state of emergency in province-wide address
VANCOUVER -- B.C. Premier John Horgan said the province has taken "extraordinary measures" to keep residents safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the next 14 days are critical in the fight against the virus.
Horgan made the comments in a province-wide address from Victoria on Tuesday evening, during which he also extended the province's state of emergency until April 14.
As B.C. enters what officials have called a critical juncture in the battle, the premier emphasized the importance of following the orders from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
"We all need to take this very seriously. These are not suggestions. They're the law," said Horgan.
The premier said the province has added critical resources to the health-care system and freed up thousands of acute care beds, as well as increased support procedures and protections in long-term care facilities.
"What we do today will affect what our doctors, nurses and first responders face in the days and weeks ahead," he said. "It will determine how many of us stay healthy and how much we can do to flatten the curve."
Horgan also thanked those who were doing their part by staying at home and helping their others in need.
"You might not feel it in your living room, but everyone in B.C. is pulling together," he said. "There are early signs that our actions are making a difference, but we can't stop now." He encouraged people to continue do their part by staying home.
Horgan directly addressed the province's health-care workers and expressed appreciation for their efforts to keep people safe.
"We know you're exhausted. And we know you're being pushed to the very limit. We know you're putting yourself in harm's way to keep others safe, and for that you have our deepest gratitude today," he said. The premier said they would leave "no stone unturned" when it comes to providing front line workers personal protective equipment.
Horgan also announced a new partnership between the government and the province's tech sector that will connect B.C. companies to health-care centres in need of supplies, such as hand sanitizer or reusable medical clothing. The program is expected to officially launch on Wednesday.
"I'm optimistic about our recovery because I'm optimistic about this province, and our future together," he said. "We will get through this because of the strength of our people and our communities."
While Horgan expressed optimism, he also acknowledged the toll the virus has taken on B.C. families and the economy.
"We've had some very tough days. Families are mourning the deaths of 24 British Columbians, and many more are in hospital or receiving intensive care," he said. "There are more challenges ahead, and that's why the next 14 days are so important."
Horgan also directly addressed people who were feeling "unsafe", as well as those who cannot afford to pay their rent or mortgages. He spoke about the measures the provincial government has taken to help those in need, including the rent freeze and the B.C. emergency benefit.
"I can't begin to imagine the stress and anxiety you're feeling. This is a very difficult time."
On Tuesday, health officials announced five more people had died of the virus in B.C., bringing the province's death toll to 24.