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B.C. premier outlines province’s COVID-19 response plan

Click to play video 'B.C. government lays out COVID-19 strategy' B.C. government lays out COVID-19 strategy
WATCH: B.C. government lays out COVID-19 strategy – Mar 6, 2020

Correction: An earlier version of this story said COVID-19 is less contagious than the flu. A recent study suggests COVID-19 is more contagious than the flu, with each infection leading to 2.2 others, on average.

Officials say the province is ready to quickly ramp up resources in case there is a widespread outbreak of COVID-19 in British Columbia.

There are currently 21 cases of COVID-19 in the province, one of which is believed to have been contracted through community contact.

The plan includes expanding sites where COVID-19 tests can be done, expanding testing capacity, increasing the advice businesses will receive around protecting staff, ensuring resources are in place if health facilities are maxed out with positive cases, and providing support to family physicians and community-based specialists.

READ MORE: B.C. identifies 8 new COVID-19 cases, one through community contact

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“We have been leading the way with respect to containment and processes in place to protect citizens from COVID-19,” B.C. Premier John Horgan said.

“Up until recently B.C. had tested more people than the entire United States.”

Horgan announcing the creation of a deputy minister committee, consisting of Emergency Management B.C. deputy minister Lori Hall and Ministry of Health deputy minister Stephen Brown, to lead the province’s COVID-19 preparedness strategy.

Click to play video 'Premier Horgan outlines B.C.’s emergency response plan for possible COVID-19 pandemic' Premier Horgan outlines B.C.’s emergency response plan for possible COVID-19 pandemic
Premier Horgan outlines B.C.’s emergency response plan for possible COVID-19 pandemic – Mar 6, 2020

There is also a new cabinet including Horgan, Health Minister Adrian Dix, Jobs minister Michelle Mungall, Tourism minister Lisa Beare, Finance minister Carole James, Public Safety minister Mike Farnworth and Labour Minister Harry Bains.

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Major jump in COVID-19 cases in B.C., including first case of community transmission – Mar 5, 2020

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and her team have also committed to frequent media updates to deal with concerns and new cases of the virus.

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“The people here are at your disposal to give you information,” Horgan said.

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The province will take some immediate measures in terms of preparation but says there is no need to implement many elements of the plan yet.

The deputy minister committee will be working with businesses to see if there are options for employees to work from home.

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What are British Columbians’ workers’ rights during the COVID-19 outbreak? – Mar 6, 2020

There are no concerns about the supply chain for many products and the government is not encouraging mass buying of products like toilet paper.

The cruise ship season is quickly approaching and the province has engaged the federal government on how to deal with potential outbreaks onboard a B.C.-based or B.C.-bound cruise ship.

Health officials say they are working to ensure family physicians and community-based specialists have the resources needed to deal with potential patients testing positive for COVID-19.

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Officials say there is a focus on care homes and managing an outbreak at facilities, noting that this is an issue every year but they working to support even with the traditional flu season coming near to a close.

READ MORE: University Canada West closes Vancouver campus following presumptive case of COVID-19

“The key actions to deal with an epidemic are care isolation, individual isolation and widespread isolation if needed,” Dix said.

“We have done nearly daily briefings and have a team to ensure communications are up to date. We are and have been ready.”

The B.C. government’s overall plan has precautions in case a COVID-19 outbreak lasts up to four months.

COVID-19 is believed to more contagious than the flu with each infection leading to 2.2 others on average.

— With files from The Associated Press