British Columbia confirmed 66 new cases of the novel coronavirus Thursday, bringing the provincial total to 725.
The number of deaths in the province remained unchanged at 14, and 186 people have fully recovered.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said an order is now in place restricting health-care workers to working at a single care facility to limit the rate of transmission.
“We’ve had a patchwork system of care providers, health-care workers of various different kinds, who move between facilities, and that is one of the things that has facilitated outbreaks,” she said.
Sixty-six COVID-19 patients were in hospital as of Thursday, with 26 of them in intensive care.
That is an increase of just two hospitalizations from Wednesday, but Henry said she didn’t “dare hope” that infections were leveling off.
She redoubled her call for people to stay home and keep two metres away from others in public to stop the spread of the virus.
She called the public health orders “our firewall,” so that “we can put out all the little sparks that are happening in our community now, based on what happened five, six, eight, 10 days ago.”
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Health Minister Adrian Dix said operators at the 811 HealthLink phone line are now fielding more than 5,000 calls a day, and have lowered wait times to about five minutes.
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‘Huge’ demand for protective equipment
B.C. is still working to secure more personal protective equipment for health-care workers, Dix said, while facing hot competition for scare resources.
“There’s huge international demand … and a lot of disruption in the global supply chains all of us use,” he said.
“There’s lots of countries that export medical equipment, but two of those key countries of course are the United States … and China,” both of whom are grappling with outbreaks of their own.
Smaller shipments, both through the federal government and B.C.’s own procurement process, are trickling in, he added, including a shipment of 15 ventilators that had just arrived.
He acknowledged officials are having to get creative with how to conserve what they have.
Earlier Thursday, B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth unveiled sweeping new measures under the province’s state of emergency due to COVID-19.
Those measures include banning the hoarding or reselling of essential goods such as food or medical supplies, and empowering bylaw officers to issue fines of up to $25,000 for people violating public health orders.
In B.C., those orders include a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people, the closure of bars, restaurants and personal service businesses and the requirement for people to keep two metres (six feet) apart in public.
B.C. also created a new supply chain unit to keep the flow of goods moving during the crisis.
On Wednesday, the province announced a freeze on evictions and rent, along with a $500 subsidy to renters facing financial hardship during the pandemic.