The B.C. government and the provincial health officer have developed a Pandemic Provincial Co-ordination Plan to protect people against novel coronavirus (COVID-19), and to respond to the evolving outbreak.
The plan focuses on delaying, containing and preparing the province to minimize serious illness and economic disruption.
“We have the most aggressive plan in North America,” Courtenay-Comox MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard said in an interview Monday.
She said there has not been a single case of COVID-19 on Vancouver Island, but notes some instances of the virus have affected seniors in care homes in Washington State and in North Vancouver.
“It’s important that people be cautious and take preventative action,” Leonard said. “It’s so simple. Wash your hands with soap and water; and if you’re sick, stay away from other people.”
A patient at a North Van care home is B.C.’s first fatality from COVID-19, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday.
As of Friday, the BC Centre for Disease control had tested 2,803 samples for 2,008 people.
“We are ahead of the curve on everything,” Leonard said.
She notes the experience of Henry, who has worked through SARS, Ebola and H1N1 viruses.
“We’ve been on it for 45 days (as of Friday). The planning has been ongoing, so the response is right there, happening right now, making sure that we protect the population, that we protect vulnerable people, that we protect health care workers, and that we support the whole health care system.”
Leonard said government is also responding to “panic buying,” and ensuring that mechanisms are in place to prevent “predatory pricing.”
“The COVID-19 situation continues to evolve here in B.C., Canada and other countries in the world,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a March 6 news release. “We are at a critical point in the fight against the virus, and we will ensure B.C.’s health system and population are ready for any scenario.”
Phase 1 of the plan is addressing identification and containment — continuing public health testing and collaboration with the federal government on border surveillance, and to identify and isolate individuals who test positive for the virus. The priority is to delay the onset of widespread community transmission for as long as possible.
Phase 2 would escalate cross-government co-ordination to quickly direct actions and resources. It also prepares for the use of emergency powers set out in the Emergency Program Act and Public Health Act. It would ensure provincial business and service continuity – with four priorities:
1. Protecting population
2. Protecting vulnerable citizens
3. Protecting health workers
4. Supporting health-care capacity