THE Province of British Columbia on Tuesday formally extended the provincial state of emergency for the 26th time, marking a year since this declaration was issued in response to COVID-19.
This unprecedented, continued state of emergency allows health and emergency management officials to continue to use extraordinary powers under the Emergency Program Act (EPA) to support the Province’s COVID-19 pandemic response.
The state of emergency is extended through the end of the day on March 30 to allow staff to take the necessary actions to keep British Columbians safe and manage immediate concerns and COVID-19 outbreaks.
“British Columbians have been living with the challenges of COVID-19 for more than a year, and while our lives have changed, our resolve has not,” said Premier John Horgan. “This is a sobering occasion, but with vaccinations ongoing in B.C., it’s also one for hope and optimism. Let’s continue to follow public health orders and advice to ensure we can be healthy and safe as we look forward to better days ahead.”
This week, the Province marks a year since Dr. Bonnie Henry, the Provincial Health Officer (PHO), declared a public health emergency in response to COVID-19. The extension of the provincial state of emergency is based on recommendations from B.C.’s health and emergency management officials. The original declaration was made on March 18, 2020, the day after Henry declared a public health emergency.
“Although this has been a challenging year, the best is still before us. If we continue to focus on keeping ourselves and our communities safe by following the orders and restrictions in place, we will end this state of emergency,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “I want to thank the majority of people in B.C. who are following the rules. For those who don’t, our compliance and enforcement officers have the tools they need to enforce the orders. Know that if you break the rules, you will face consequences.”
The Province continues, with the support of police and other enforcement officials, to use measures under the EPA to limit the spread of COVID-19, including issuing tickets for owners, operators and event organizers who host an event or gathering contravening the PHO’s orders.
On July 10, 2020, the COVID-19 Related Measures Act came into force, enabling provisions created for citizens and businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to continue as needed should the provincial state of emergency end.
Facts about B.C.’s state of emergency
* Between August 21, 2020, and March 12, 2021, 1,471 violation tickets were issued, including:
– 221 $2,300 tickets to owners or organizers contravening the provincial health officer’s (PHO) order on gatherings and events;
– 39 $2,300 violation tickets for contravention of the PHO’s Food and Liquor Serving Premises Order, and
– 1,211 $230 tickets issued to individuals who refused to comply with direction from law enforcement.
* The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General is continually working to align the Emergency Program Act (EPA) enforcement orders with those of the restrictions enacted by the PHO.
* Additionally, since the pandemic began, police agencies in British Columbia have issued 113 violation tickets to individuals who were in contravention of the Federal Quarantine Act, totalling $369,842.
* The purpose of the Quarantine Act is to protect public health by taking comprehensive measures to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases.
* Since the start of the pandemic, WorkSafeBC has conducted 24,221 COVID-19 related work site inspections.
* On December 16, 2020, the Province announced enhanced enforcement measures to keep British Columbians safe and mitigate the impacts of COVID-19. This included strengthening COVID-19 fine collection measures and asking provincial enforcement officers to support police and increase enforcement by issuing violation tickets during their normal course of duties or when in public places.
* Declarations of provincial states of emergency may be issued by the minister responsible under the EPA.
* The provincial government can extend the period of a declaration made by the minister responsible for further periods of up to 14 days at a time.