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PRESS RELEASE: MARCH 26, 2020

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British Columbians now face fines, jail time if they don't obey public health orders over COVID-19

Public safety minister issues series of emergency orders to ensure compliance, secure supply chain

CBC News · Posted: Mar 26, 2020 8:30 AM PT

The B.C. government has issued a number of orders to ensure the public complies with mandatory public health orders and to secure the province's supply of food and medical supplies for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.

Community bylaw officers now have the power to enforce the orders that provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has issued in recent weeks, including the order to stay at least two metres away from others and stop holding gatherings with more than 50 people.

Those who do not comply can now be fined or jailed, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said Thursday morning.

"These are unprecedented measures for unprecedented times," Farnworth said.

The minister announced a ban on the resale of food, medical supplies, personal protective equipment and other essential supplies to prevent hoarding and stop medical equipment from being sold on the black market.

B.C. has also established a new provincial supply chain co-ordination unit to take a more active role in the distribution of goods and services. Retailers and suppliers must report on inventory of critical supplies, including medical supplies for frontline workers.

The province has also suspended local states of emergency to ensure a co-ordinated, provincewide response to the pandemic. (The City of Vancouver is the sole exception because it has its own charter.)

Farnworth called the orders "extraordinary and unprecedented action." They are the first orders issued under the provincial state of emergency since it was declared March 18.

Farnworth made the declaration to give the government the power to use any emergency tools necessary to respond or lessen the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

Earlier Thursday morning, Health Minister Adrian Dix said the pandemic is "the most serious health emergency the province has ever faced."

"We have to be all in," Dix said.

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