UBCM COVID-19: Update #2

Public Health Emergency Declared

Provincial officials have declared a public health emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The announcement gives the Public Health Officer special powers under the Public Health Act, including the ability to issue verbal orders and the power to compel peace officers to enforce those orders.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, the Provincial Health Officer, emphasized the need for all British Columbians to practice social distancing by maintaining a two-metre space from others in public areas. In her first verbal order, Dr. Henry ordered that all bars and nightclubs (liquor primary) be closed immediately until further notice, saying that she did not believe such businesses could provide the required distance between patrons necessary to prevent transmission. Dr. Henry also indicated restaurants that were unable to provide effective social distancing, either through take out options or seating arrangements, should also close.

As of yesterday, 186 cases of COVID-19 had been identified in British Columbia, leading to seven deaths.

Weekly & Daily Coordination Calls with Local Governments

The province has opened two new lines of communication with local governments to strengthen COVID-19 coordination.

EMBC has begun coordinating regional calls on a daily basis with local government emergency managers to discuss operational issues. Minister Selina Robinson has also begun a series of weekly calls with Mayors, Chairs and UBCM Executive to discuss policy issues. The first policy call, held yesterday, included input from Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix.

“BC communities are facing an unprecedented challenge," said Mayor Maja Tait, UBCM president. "Yesterday’s meeting focussed attention on the orders of the provincial health officer and identified policy adjustments that will strengthen service delivery in the weeks ahead. The coordination and support that is being provided by the province is deeply welcomed. Local governments will do our part to support the implementation of the provincial response to COVID 19 as that continues to evolve.” 

Gatherings in Excess of 50 People Prohibited

The Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has issued an order that prohibits municipalities, regional districts and school boards – among others - from “permitting the gathering of people in excess of 50 people at a place of which you are the owner, occupier or operator, or for which [they] are otherwise responsible.” The order was issued in recognition of the health hazard posed by COVID-19.

The Order expires on May 30, 2020. Local governments are required to implement this order under section 42 of the Public Health Act.

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