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Ignoring public health orders could mean jail time, hefty fine for people in B.C. amid pandemic

Citynews 1130 Vancouver

Last Updated Mar 26, 2020 at 8:42 pm PDT


B.C. further restricting quantities of items purchased at point of sale

B.C. suspends local states of emergency, except for the City of Vancouver

Also establishing a new provincial supply chain coordination unit for distribution of essential goods, services

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – Acting against the orders of public health officials could cost $25,000 or even send someone to jail now that the province is taking more measures in its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth announced measures Thursday to ban the secondary resale of food, medical supplies, personal protective equipment, cleaning and other essential supplies, as well as restricting quantities of items purchased at point of sale.

On top of that, municipal bylaw officers have the power to issue fines of over $25,000 or even jail people for ignoring orders of public health officers.

The province issued ministerial orders to ensure a co-ordinated COVID-19 response across all levels of government, while suspending local states of emergency specific to the pandemic, except for the City of Vancouver.

The latter is intended to give municipal councils the ability to hold more flexible meetings to expedite decisions, as well co-ordinate use of publicly owned facilities, such as community centres, for self-isolation, testing, medical care, warehousing and distribution.

“B.C. is in a strong position to effectively respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Farnworth says in a release. “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.”

The province is also establishing a new provincial supply chain coordination unit for distribution of essential goods and services, including movement by land, air, marine and rail.

The government is suspending any bylaws that restrict goods delivery at any time of day, as well.

Regarding enforcement, the province is enabling municipal bylaw officers to support the provincial health officer’s orders for business closures and gatherings, in line with offences under the Public Health Act.

As for travel, the province ensures all passenger and car-ferry services will provide minimum service levels, with priority access for residents, essential goods and workers.

The province will also making it easier to support critical services for vulnerable people, food banks and shelters, but did not suggest how.

“In these new and challenging times we are facing, we’re asking British Columbians to stay strong as a community, and together we can get through this,” said Minister of Health Adrian Dix.

“By issuing a series of ministerial orders, we recognize that this is not forever, but it is for now. With everyone stepping in and respecting the extraordinary means we have to take, we will overcome this.”

Farnworth declared a provincial state of emergency on March 18. The provincial health officer declared a public health emergency on March 17.

The province previously declared states of emergency in 1998, 2003, 2017 and 2018 – all related to wildfires.