The B.C. government is setting up a new supply chain team to control the distribution and sale of essential products during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s also bringing in new powers, including fines and even jail time for anyone caught selling essential supplies during the crisis.
Bylaw officers are also being redeployed to have the power to fine anyone not following the rules, including social distancing.
“This step is unprecedented,” said Premier John Horgan.
“This is not a drill, it’s a pandemic. The orders from our health officials are the law, not advice or suggestions.”
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.
Farnworth also said the province will restrict quantities of items purchased at the point of sale and issued orders to ensure a co-ordinated pandemic response across all levels of government.
That included suspending municipal states of emergency, except in Vancouver, to ensure local governments identify and release facilities for the pandemic response, including resources.
As of today:
* Supply chain: Establishing a new Provincial Supply Chain Coordination Unit to co-ordinate goods and services distribution; taking a more active role in co-ordinating essential goods and services movement by land, air, marine and rail; and suspending any bylaws that restrict goods delivery at any time of day.
* Protecting consumers: Banning the secondary resale of food, medical supplies, personal protective equipment, cleaning and other essential supplies; and restricting quantities of items purchased at point of sale.
* Enforcement: Enabling municipal bylaw officers to support enforcement of the provincial health officer's orders for business closures and gatherings, in line with offences under the Public Health Act.
* Co-ordination: Suspending local states of emergency specific to the COVID-19 pandemic, except for the City of Vancouver; giving municipal councils the ability to hold more flexible meetings to expedite decisions; and co-ordinating potential use of local publicly owned facilities, like community centres, for self-isolation, testing, medical care, warehousing and distribution.
Horgan said the province is now at a “critical juncture” in its fight against the virus.
“Are we doing our part and following the clear directions of our health officers, who’ve been working tirelessly to give us the direction.
“Some have continued to defy those instructions by hoarding and gathering in large groups.”
Farnworth said today’s new measures are based on the recommendations of health officials and will be in force for the duration of the province’s state of emergency.
The province, added Farnworth, is taking action to coordinate retailers which must report on the supply for equipment for frontline workers in the healthcare system.
He said police will have the power to press charges against anyone trying to resell essential supplies.
Asked about the request for cities to list an inventory of facilities that may be used by the province for the pandemic response, Farnworth confirmed the likes of the Vancouver Convention Centre could be used during the emergency.
He said it could be used for isolating and housing people infected with the virus.
Farnworth added that the province is asking suppliers what kind of inventory they have for the likes of medical equipment.
In B.C., as of Thursday morning, there have been 659 confirmed cases of the virus, resulting in 14 deaths. A total of 183 people have fully recovered.
In Canada, there have been 3,579 confirmed cases, resulting in 36 deaths. A total of 185 cases have fully recovered.
Globally, as of Thursday morning, there have been almost half a million cases, resulting in 22,311 deaths. More than 120,000 people have fully recovered from the virus.
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