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B.C. declares state of emergency; Yukon declares public health emergency

Thursday, March 19, 2020 @ 10:55 AM | By Ian Burns

The British Columbia government has declared a provincial state of emergency to support the provincewide response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth made the declaration March 18 based on the recommendation from B.C.’s health and emergency management officials, after Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, declared a public health emergency March 17.

“Declaring a state of emergency is an important measure to support our provincial health officer and minister of health in swift and powerful response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Farnworth said. “We are working with partners across government and industry to co-ordinate emergency response efforts, and we won’t hesitate to use the tools available to us to keep people safe.”

Declaring a state of emergency allows the province to implement any provincial emergency measures required with access to land and human resource assets that may be necessary to prevent, respond to or alleviate the effects of an emergency. This includes securing the critical supply chains to make sure people have access to essential goods and services and that infrastructure necessary in a response is readily available.

The state of emergency is initially in effect for 14 days, once issued, and may be extended or rescinded as necessary. The state of emergency applies to the whole province and allows federal, provincial and local resources to be delivered in a co-ordinated effort.

The province has created 1-888-COVID-19 to connect British Columbians needing non-medical information about COVID-19. This includes the latest information on travel recommendations and social distancing, as well as access to support and resources from the provincial and federal governments.

In addition, Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley has declared a public health emergency under section 4.3 of the Public Health and Safety Act. The public health emergency will be in effect until further notice.

“We are continuing to ramp up our response as all of Canada braces for COVID-19. Yukon has no confirmed cases at this time, but the threat is real and COVID-19 in the North is inevitable,” Hanley said. “By taking these precautions now, we have the ability to limit its spread. We are taking the necessary incremental steps to save lives and ensure the sustainability of our health-care systems.”

This declaration comes with new public health measures aimed at protecting Yukoners and limiting the spread of COVID-19: classes are suspended at all Yukon public schools until April 15, or until further notice, and all public indoor recreational facilities and libraries are required to close until further notice. All three Yukon hospitals are closed to visitors, with limited exceptions.