Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial Medical Officer of Health declares a public health emergency in B.C., stepping up the fight against the new coronavirus pandemic.

By Fran Yanor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Mar. 18, 2020 – To reduce the risk of mass transmission of COVID-19 between people in large crowds, the province’s top Medical Health Officer issued an order that public gatherings must not exceed 50 people. 

All casinos, bars, pubs and night clubs are ordered to close.

Restaurants and cafes can remain open as long as they ensure social distancing of one to two metres between patrons and adhere to serving less than 50 people at any given time. Some businesses are choosing to stay open, while others are shifting operations to take-out and delivery of service.

The Federal government agreed to allow people to stay in their vehicles during crossings on B.C. Ferries.

Everyone arriving in B.C. from another country on or since Mar. 12 must immediately self-isolate for 14 days.

All K-to-12 in-class learning in the province is suspended indefinitely.

In an effort to redeploy health professionals to the pandemic and ensure all available healthcare resources are reserved for the same purpose, the following temporary changes have been made to the hospital system:

No sick notes will be required for people experiencing symptoms, or having to care for people with symptoms or having to stay home with children.

All prescription will be refilled without need for involving the original doctor. 

Retired health care professionals may be called back into service.

All hospitals have been ordered to postpone elective surgeries, dealing only with urgent and emergency procedures.

The Lions Gate Hospital in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, which has already treated patients with the virus, will have a dedicatedCOVID-19 unit and will accept only emergency patients.

Cruise ships with more than 500 people are delayed entry until July 2020.