B.C. extends state of emergency for another two weeks

Premier John Horgan says the province will rely on data to inform when it lifts emergency restrictions

The Province of British Columbia has extended its state of emergency for an additional two-week period.

B.C. Premier John Horgan said Wednesday that while progress has been achieved, social distancing measures and precautions must remain in place so that the province stays its course in its efforts to manage the pandemic.

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“I believe people have genuine cause for celebration,” he said, adding that the work is not yet done.

“I look at my colleagues across the country who set arbitrary dates for return,” he explained. “We are not going to follow their lead.”

Horgan said that when the evidence presents itself, the province will look at easing up on some of its restrictions. Kids could return to school in several weeks, he said, if the data supports that decision. 

He added that the province's decision to follow many of Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry's recommendations early on – including restrictions on mass gatherings and social distancing measures – have contributed to B.C.'s relative success in curbing the spread of the coronavirus within its borders.

“These initiatives made a difference," he said. “Because of our early start to prepare for the pandemic I think we’ll be in a better position when the restart happens."

In the meantime, municipalities and organizations have called on the provincial government to extend emergency support so that essential and critical services can continue to operate. 

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart has asked both provincial and federal governments for support.

“I don’t dismiss Mayor Stewart’s concerns, but those concerns are echoed across the province," responded Horgan. "We are making this up as we go, as the problems emerge.”

Translink recently revealed that it is losing $75 million per month, and is looking at cutting entire routes if it doesn't receive financial support.

"The evidence from Translink yesterday was graphic for the public and we need to get our heads around that," said Horgan. 

The premier also added that following and keeping pace with federal government announcements and programs has been a "major challenge." 

Horgan did not speculate as to when B.C. will lift its restrictions and when it may shift priorities to focus on the province's economic recovery. 

"The data, the science will direct us in that regard. We will be different from other jurisdictions. I think comparing to Washington State is a challenge," he said in answer to a question about when B.C. may lift restrictions relative to jurisdictions such as Washington and Alberta. Horgan noted that a lot of B.C.'s community transmission was due to the outbreak in Seattle. He added that he was pleased to see the federal government adopt B.C.'s two-week quarantine requirement for travellers coming to Canada.

Tomorrow, the province will make an announcement related to the Insurance Corp. of British Columbia. This Friday, the province will provide more information on its COVID-19 modelling.

hwoodin@biv.com

@hayleywoodin

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