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B.C. takes ‘unprecedented steps’ in response to coronavirus pandemic

The B.C. government announced significant additional measures on Thursday to control the supply chain of goods and services and ban the resale of high-demands products such as food and medical supplies amid the coronavirus crisis.

“B.C. is in a strong position to effectively respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth told a news conference.

“Informed by the direction of the provincial health officer, we’re taking these critical steps to keep our communities safe, goods moving and essential service workers supported.”

READ MORE: B.C. declares state of emergency in response to coronavirus pandemic

Under the Emergency Program Act, the province has put several new orders in place.

A new unit is being established to coordinate the distribution of goods and services on the supply chain by land, air, marine and rail.

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The resale of food, medical supplies, personal protective equipment, cleaning and other essential supplies has been banned.

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Municipal bylaw officers will be able to enforce the provincial health orders on business closures and gatherings, and make arrests or issue fines if needed.

BC ambulance paramedics are seeing an increase in calls due to COVID-19
BC ambulance paramedics are seeing an increase in calls due to COVID-19

All local states of emergency specific to the COVID-19 pandemic have been suspended, except for the City of Vancouver.

“Many local governments, First Nations and partners have stepped up to make sure they have prepared to protect their communities from the impacts of COVID-19,” Farnworth said.

“Today’s measures will make sure communities are taking necessary steps, in co-ordination with the province, to get ready should more action be required.”

READ MORE: Residents of B.C. retirement home issue COVID-19 message: ‘Please stay home, my health matters’

Earlier this week, Prince Rupert Mayor Lee Brain sent a letter to other mayors, expressing his frustration with the provincial government taking power away from municipalities.

“We have gotten first-hand information from the physicians on the ground who are sounding the alarm regarding the dysfunction/indecisiveness going on between the administration of the local health authorities and the urgent actions needed on the ground,” Brain’s letter reads.

“Each one of our communities have unique issues that will not fully be solved by overarching provincial orders. You and I all know that if we wait for Victoria to figure out on the ground issues, it will be too late (and already is).”

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READ MORE: Your coronavirus questions, answered: Medical experts respond to your COVID-19 concerns

Prince Rupert announced this week that anyone entering the community, including travellers from inside B.C., must go into self-isolation for 14 days, with the exception of essential workers.

In response, Farnworth told the Thursday news conference: “This is a pandemic, and it’s the chief provincial health officer’s decisions that should be followed. We have been clear that local government is a clear partner.”

The province has also allowed for the potential coordination of local public facilities, such as community centres, to help people self-isolate, test people for COVID-19, provide medical care, or store and distribute goods.