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B.C. in longest state of emergency as legislature set to resume

Last Updated May 28, 2020 at 8:26 pm PDT

FILE - Premier John Horgan announced $5 million for virtual mental health during the pandemic on Thursday, April 9, 2020. (Courtesy John Horgan, Twitter)

First public state of emergency in B.C. ordered 10 weeks ago

Premier John Horgan also announced the legislature will resume next month

Province sticking to 14-day isolation period for those coming into the country

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — The provincial state of emergency was extended another two weeks Wednesday for a total of 10, making it the longest in B.C. history.

Premier John Horgan also announced the legislature will resume next month, but not with all MLAs.

“In fact, it was 10 weeks ago that we announced the first public state of emergency and adding two additional weeks makes this the longest period of B.C.’s history where emergency orders have been in place,” he said.

The state of emergency will continue until June 10, while the previous record was during the wildfire season in 2017.

The legislature will resume on June 22. He added some MLAs will attend, while others will participate virtually.

“But at the end of the day, debate will take place, votes will be cast, and democracy will be well served.”

Long-term care homes

Horgan also reassured families unable to see their loved ones in long-term care homes because of COVID-19 restrictions that the “horror stories that we’re seeing out of Ontario and Quebec are not being duplicated here in British Columbia.”

The premier explained the provincial government worked hard before the pandemic to ensure standard hours of care were finally being met.

“The previous administration put in place standards and then proceeded to not meet them. Minister Dix was tasked with improving the ratio of time-per-patient and we were fairly successful at that with more work to do.”

Additional COVID-19 precautions have been introduced to protect care home residents, including enforcing staff only work at single sites.

“I can say with great certainty the providers are giving the best care possible under extraordinarily difficult circumstances,” he said

Urgent care

Horgan and Health Minister Adrian Dix also announced that a new urgent primary care centre opened Wednesday in Surrey.

One opened at Surrey Memorial Hospital in November of 2018 has since seen more than 29,000 patients.

Horgan said 90,000 people in Surrey don’t have a family doctor and that the new care centre will alleviate that pressure on Surrey Memorial.

“It’s gonna be open, initially, for 44 hours in a week and by the end of July, we’re hoping that it will be seven days a week, 12 hours a day.

Horgan was also adamant the current 14-day self-isolation period for people arriving in the country is a national order and he doesn’t see it being lifted anytime soon.

Hockey season

That applies to the NHL, which announced Tuesday that Vancouver was on a shortlist to be one of two hub cities to host teams and games should play resume.

Canucks general manager Jim Benning said Wednesday the team is considering moving training camp to the U.S. because of Canada’s 14-day mandatory quarantine requirement for those arriving in the country.

“First of all, I’m excited that the Canucks are in the playoffs,” Horgan said.

“The NHL has continued to have Vancouver on the list of potential sites for all of the reasons that we laid out for the officials at the NHL at the NHLPA,” Horgan said.

“But we will not waive the rules that are actually the rules of Canada, which is you require a 14-day isolation period when you’re coming into the country,” he added.

“And although I understand the NHL is looking at resuming play in the middle of July, in COVID years, that’s 1,000 years from now. I look forward to continuing my discussions with the Canucks, with the NHL, about how Vancouver and British Columbia can play a part in the restart of the NHL. But we’re focusing on the well being of the citizens of British Columbia, as we should.”

Horgan said he didn’t want to rule out Vancouver as one of the NHL hubs, but said the league still hasn’t presented a plan to the province.

Film industry

He said the isolation rule also applies to companies in the TV and film industry, despite reports some could relocate to U.S. states that don’t have such a restriction.

“We have a proud history here in British Columbia going back at least 25 years in my experience, maybe 30, of encouraging the development of Hollywood North,” Horgan added. “And we’re widely regarded as the third largest film production center in North America after Los Angeles and New York.”

He said the province will ask health experts when to relax such regulations, when it is safe to do so.

“We need a couple of incubation periods to be confident, and then we’ll maybe take a look at it then.”

Travel and football

Regarding international travel, he doesn’t foresee border restrictions being lifted soon.

“I don’t foresee any change in that in the near term, at all.”

Horgan was also asked about the CFL and said he’s had discussions with the B.C. Lions about starting the season, possibly in the fall.

“Football, of course, involves a lot of people on both sides of the line, not just on the field but on the sidelines,” he added. “So those are issues that will need to be worked out.”

Horgan mentioned the province had been considering a bid to host the CFL Grey Cup in a few years.

“I’d like to get those discussions started, as well.”

-With files from Liza Yuzda