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Physical distancing, other measures expected to last in B.C. until at least end of April: Dix

Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Premier John Horgan and a dozen MLAs who gathered in the legislative assembly to make special statements about the COVID-19 pandemic during a rare event at the Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, March 23, 2020.
Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Premier John Horgan and a dozen MLAs who gathered in the legislative assembly to make special statements about the COVID-19 pandemic during a rare event at the Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, March 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

B.C.’s health minister says British Columbians should expect to remain under strict provincial orders until at least the end of April.

Those orders, which came in response to the COVID-19 crisis, include restrictions on public gatherings, closure of services and businesses, and mandatory physical distancing.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: B.C. reports 3 new deaths, 100 people now recovered

“We are preparing for a much more serious situation in our acute care sector and in the health of British Columbians,” Adrian Dix said.

“I don’t have any expectation of any relief from the extraordinary measures that the provincial health officer has imposed on British Columbians. I don’t see any prospect before the end of April of those orders changing.”

READ MORE: B.C. announces $5B coronavirus aid package for individuals, businesses

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Dix provided the information during question period of Monday’s “unprecedented” sitting of the B.C. legislature. The health minister said the province has opened up 3,672 acute care beds to prepare for what the province is expecting will be a huge increase in coronavirus hospitalization.

The province will be releasing modelling numbers in the next week to provide the public with a sense of what the province is looking at in terms of cases and death projections.

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The B.C. legislature is expected to pass two pieces of legislation on Monday, including a financial aid package and a law to ban employers from firing employees because they have to stay home due to COVID-19.

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Just 12 out of 87 MLAs sat in the chamber to debate the legislation, including Premier John Horgan, Finance Minister Carole James and two members from both the Liberal and Green caucus.

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“When you think of what our lives were like six weeks ago it is hard to imagine how far we have come as a society as we have tried to grapple with a pandemic,” Horgan said.

The B.C. Liberals are represented in the chamber by Mike de Jong and Jas Johal.

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B.C. health officials announce three new deaths from COVID-19, and 48 new cases since Saturday – Mar 23, 2020

De Jong said it is clear the crisis is having a huge impact on the tourism and hospitality sectors, and the Liberals support the provincial measures that have been introduced to address the crisis.

“These are, to be sure, worrisome and uncertain times. I see the lines of worry, concern and fatigue etched on the faces of premiers, ministers, and public health officers,” de Jong said.

“The worry on their faces mirrors the worry on the faces of parents who are concerned about who will look after the kids or the interruption to their education or a concern about grandparents, who are amongst the most vulnerable.”

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The BC Greens are also supporting the legislation introduced on Monday.

James introduced a $5-billion aid package for British Columbians on Monday. The Finance Minister says for the package is “sufficient” for now, but acknowledged during question period that it may not be enough.

“I cannot commit if this will be sufficient for the next three months, the next six months, even the next two months,” she said.