BC officially in longest state of emergency in province’s history
By Lauren Gargiulo, Contributor
British Columbia’s current state of emergency is now the longest in the province’s history.
BC Premier John Horgan extended the emergency for another two weeks on Wednesday, as BC residents start preparing for phase two of the province’s restart plan. In phase two, health services including elective surgery have been restarted, as well as physical therapy, massage therapy, dentistry, and other medical services.
According to the province’s plan, phase two means that the government is “asking people to stay close to home and avoid any travel between communities that are not essential.”
If transmission rates of COVID-19 continue to decline, people can begin travelling throughout BC during phase three, which is estimated to start between June and September.
Despite BC having the lowest mortality rate in a jurisdiction in Canada, the United States, and Europe with more than 2,500 positive cases and over 150 deaths, Horgan is not looking to end the state of emergency in two weeks time. Although BC is on track with its restart plan, Horgan told reporters on May 27 that there “is likely no end in sight” and is expecting BC’s state of emergency to last longer than the current time of 12 weeks.
The provincial government can extend the period of a state of emergency up to 14 days at a time. The longest state of emergency previously was due to the 2017 wildfire season which lasted for 10 weeks from July 7 to Sept. 15.
In a response about the provincial state of emergency extension Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said the government “is committed to supporting people and businesses for the long road ahead.”
As restaurants and retail businesses start re-opening, “we must work together […] in a way that keeps our communities and loved ones safe in the weeks and months to come.” Horgan states in the same document.
Businesses like hair salons, restaurants, and massage therapists can operate on a 50 percent capacity—with many businesses requiring both patrons and employees to wear masks.
BC legislature will be returning on June 22, with MLAs working both from the BC legislature in Victoria and from home Horgan said. “But at the end of the day, debates will take place, votes will be cast, and democracy will be well served.”