BC declares public health emergency for even faster response to rapidly changing situation

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has declared a public health emergency. This is an additional step to ensure the province has more tools available to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This declaration enables the provincial health officer to facilitate an even faster response to the rapidly changing situation and enact further measures to protect British Columbians, such as enforcement of orders limiting public gatherings of 50 people or more.

Health Minister Adrian Dix and Henry said on Tuesday announced that three more people who tested positive for COVID-19 have recently passed away. Two were residents of the Lynn Valley Care Centre and one was a man in his 80s from the Fraser Health region.

They also announced 83 new cases of COVID-19, for a total of 186 cases in British Columbia. Of the new cases, seven are currently hospitalized, four are in intensive care, five have recovered and the remaining patients are at home in isolation.

Of the total cases, 116 are in Vancouver Coastal, 47 are in Fraser, 12 are on Vancouver Island, seven are in Interior and four are in Northern health regions.

Dix and Henry said : “This steep increase in the number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases in B.C. is in large part a result of consolidating data this week as our reporting process aligns with the increase in the number of tests that is now taking place in five sites around the province. We anticipate this will level off.”

Meanwhile, effective immediately, businesses with liquor primary licences, such as bars, pubs and night clubs, must close as they are unable to adequately meet the requirements of social distancing. Restaurants and cafes that cannot maintain social distancing of one to two meters between patrons will need to move to take-out and delivery models.

Dix and Henry said: “We also remind British Columbians that public gatherings of more than 50 people – indoors or outdoors – must be cancelled.”

They also noted: “This is the second time the provincial health officer has served notice under the Public Health Act to exercise emergency powers. The first declaration was in 2016, in response to the overdose crisis.

“We would like to remind people that tests are available for all those who need them, but not everyone requires a test.

“To further support people who are wondering if they should be tested, a new self-assessment tool is now available. Before calling 811, we recommend completing the self-assessment at: http://covid-19.bccdc.ca/

“We continue to remind people to please use hand hygiene, maintain social or physical distancing, and to stay at home if you are sick or at high risk for serious illness. That includes the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.

“Sufficient physical distancing of one to two meters should be incorporated for workers and customers for businesses and services that will remain open to provide transportation, keep our communities safe and provide essential goods and services.

“For those who have recently travelled outside of Canada and are currently self-isolating for 14 days: leaving your home, hotel or a similar place should only be done for essential errands, such as obtaining medication or food, and with a mask or tissues.

“This is a time to support our friends, family and communities. Purchasing groceries for those isolating or donating blood to support our health-care system are some of the ways you can help. Canada Blood Services has added additional screening measures for increased vigilance to enable the continued supply of blood products for surgery, cancer treatments and emergencies.”

B.C. COVID-19 response update

The COVID-19 situation in British Columbia is continually evolving and the information below is current as of 3 p.m on March 17, 2020. These updates will be issued daily for the remainder of the week.


* Total confirmed cases in B.C.: 186

* New cases since March 16, 2020: 83

* Hospitalized cases: 7

* Deaths: 7

* Recovered: 5

Confirmed cases by region:

* Vancouver Coastal Health: 116

* Fraser Health: 47

* Island Health: 12

* Interior Health: 7

* Northern Health: 4


* Testing is available for all who need it, but not everyone requires a test.
* If you have no symptoms, mild symptoms or you are a returning traveller self-isolating at home, you do not require a test.

* For each of these situations, the public health advice remains the same, regardless of test results: self-isolate for 14 days to monitor for the development of symptoms or until your symptoms are completely gone.

* Those who have severe illness, require hospitalization, are residents of long-term care facilities or are health-care workers will continue to be tested.
* Anyone part of an active investigation or outbreak cluster will be tested so they can be appropriately monitored.

* If symptoms appear, call your health-care provider or 811 for guidance.

Provincial advice and measures:

* NEW: A public health emergency has been declared.

* NEW: The B.C. government is suspending K-12 learning in all classrooms. A decision on when and how to return will be made in partnership with school districts and independent schools.

* NEW: Businesses with liquor primary licenses (bars, pubs, night clubs, etc.) are ordered to close.

* NEW: Restaurants and cafes that cannot maintain social distancing of one to two meters between patrons must move to take-out and delivery models.

* NEW: An online self-assessment tool to help to determine further assessment needs for testing related to COVID-19 is available here: http://covid-19.bccdc.ca/

* NEW: Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, has issued the following order for travellers: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/about-bc-s-health-care-system/office-of-the-provincial-health-officer/current-health-topics

* NEW: The B.C. government will make changes to the Employment Standards Act to protect workers and prevent layoffs.

* NEW: BC Ferries will allow customers to remain in their vehicles on the enclosed car deck.

* On March 16, Henry announced new measures related to mass gatherings: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/health/about-bc-s-health-care-system/office-of-the-provincial-health-officer/reports-publications/covid-19-pho-class-order-mass-gatherings.pdf

* Measures related to hospital operations, long-term care facilities, casinos and gatherings of over 50 people are here: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2020HLTH0086-000499

* 1 888 COVID-19 has been launched to provide non-clinical information about COVID-19. This number is available seven days a week, from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., in over 110 languages.

* People can also text 604 630-0300 for non-clinical support.

* There is no need to stockpile. Be measured and show moderation when purchasing food and household goods. There is no shortage of goods in Canada.

Public health emergency:

* Under a provincial health emergency, a provincial health officer, among other emergency powers, may:
* do orally what must otherwise be done in writing;

* serve an order in any manner;

* act in a shorter or longer time period than is otherwise required; and

* compel any peace officer to enforce an order


* Provincial health officer’s order for travellers: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/about-bc-s-health-care-system/office-of-the-provincial-health-officer/current-health-topics

* Global Affairs Canada has set up an emergency loan program for people abroad attempting to return to Canada.

* Public health officials urge anyone who has travelled to a foreign country to self-isolate for 14 days, staying away from work or school. Guidance for self-isolation is available on the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) website: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/testing-isolation

* On March 16, 2020, the federal government announced new measures related to travel, including:
* banning entry of foreign nationals by air travel from all countries except the U.S.

* consolidating international inbound flights to four major hubs only, including Vancouver International Airport (YVR)

* preventing symptomatic passengers from boarding a plane to Canada

* strengthening in-flight medical procedures and medical screening immediately upon landing, with enhanced cleaning and disinfection at airports

* support for impacted Canadians abroad

* 14-day self-isolation for all arrivals except for essential work

* Cruise ship season is delayed until July 1, 2020 (vessels with more than 500 people).

Media availability schedule:

Upcoming scheduled media availabilities with Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, and Henry will be held:

Wednesday, March 18, 2020 – 3 p.m., Vancouver
Thursday, March 19, 2020 – 3 p.m., Vancouver
Friday, March 20, 2020 – 3 p.m., Vancouver

Learn More:

* For non-medical information relating to COVID-19, call: 1 888 COVID-19

* For recommendations on protecting yourself and your community, including for employers, businesses, schools and those planning events of less than 50, visit: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/coronavirus-(novel)

* For common questions about COVID-19 and terminology, visit: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/common-questions

* For the COVID-19 pandemic preparedness and planning materials, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/about-bc-s-health-care-system/office-of-the-provincial-health-officer/current-health-topics/pandemic-influenza

* For more information and latest updates on COVID-19, follow the BCCDC on Twitter @CDCofBC or visit: http://www.bccdc.ca/