The Province of British Columbia has formally extended the provincial state of emergency, allowing health and emergency management officials to continue to use extraordinary powers under the Emergency Program Act (EPA) to support the Province's COVID-19 pandemic response.
The state of emergency is extended through the end of the day on Feb. 16, 2021, to allow staff to take the necessary actions to keep British Columbians safe and manage immediate concerns and COVID-19 outbreaks.
“We’d all like to get back to a more normal life, but our case numbers will rise if we’re not careful,” said Premier John Horgan. “We’re well prepared, but as we’ve seen around the world, increased COVID-19 cases could put our health systems and us all at risk. We need to hold the course until we bend that curve down. It’s time to work together, support each other and continue to follow public health guidance so we can keep people safe.”
The extension of the provincial state of emergency is based on recommendations from B.C.’s health and emergency management officials. The original declaration was made on March 18, 2020, the day after Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer (PHO), declared a public health emergency.
On Dec. 16, 2020, the Province announced enhanced enforcement measures to keep British Columbians safe and mitigate the impacts of COVID-19. This included strengthening COVID-19 fine collection measures and asking provincial enforcement officers to support police and increase enforcement by issuing violation tickets during their normal course of duties or when in public places.
“It’s unbelievable that some people still refuse to put the safety of people and communities above their own selfish needs,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “The vast majority of British Columbians are doing the right thing, but there are some who continue to ignore the rules or bend them to suit their own purposes. We’re all in this pandemic together, and the only way out of it is together. For those who still don’t get that, we will continue to take measures to protect British Columbians from your actions.”
The Province continues to use, with the support of police and other enforcement officials, measures under the EPA to limit the spread of COVID-19, including issuing tickets to owners or organizers contravening the PHO’s orders.
On July 10, the COVID-19 Related Measures Act came into force, enabling provisions created for citizens and businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to continue as needed should the provincial state of emergency end.
- Between Aug. 21, 2020, and Jan. 29, 2021, 806 violation tickets were issued, including:
- 141 $2,300 tickets to owners or organizers contravening the PHO’s order on gatherings and events;
- 28 $2,300 violation tickets for contravention of the PHO's Food and Liquor Serving Premises Order; and
- 637 $230 tickets issued to individuals who refused to comply with direction from law enforcement.
- The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General is continually working to align EPA enforcement orders with those of the restrictions enacted by the PHO.
- Additionally, since the pandemic began, police agencies in British Columbia have issued 90 violation tickets to individuals who were in contravention of the Federal Quarantine Act, totalling $98,929.
- The purpose of the Quarantine Act is to protect public health by taking comprehensive measures to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases.
- Since the start of the pandemic, WorkSafeBC has conducted 21,813 COVID-19 related work site inspections.
- Declarations of provincial states of emergency may be issued by the minister responsible under the EPA.
- The provincial government can extend the period of a declaration made by the minister responsible for further periods of up to 14 days at a time.
On Dec. 16, 2020, enforcement measures were expanded.
Details are available here: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2020PREM0108-002083
On Nov. 24, 2020, a mask enforcement order was introduced under the EPA, requiring masks for people over the age of 12 in public indoor settings, unless they are exempt.
Details are available here: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2020EMBC0061-001960
For information on all recent orders and guidance, as well as general COVID-19 information for all British Columbians, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/covid19
For more information and latest medical updates on COVID-19, follow the BC Centre for Disease Control on Twitter @CDCofBC or visit the centre‘s website: http://www.bccdc.ca/