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Province takes over emergency response from cities

New provincial orders protect the supply chain and prohibit the secondary resale of food, medical supplies, cleaning supplies and protective equipment
Minister of Public Safety and the Solicitor General Mike Farnworth announces the new measures alongs
Minister of Public Safety and the Solicitor General Mike Farnworth announces the new measures alongside Premier John Horgan

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In an escalation of its response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the provincial government announced Thursday it has invoked the Emergency Program Act to take over emergency response from municipalities across B.C., give civic bylaw officers the ability to enforce orders from health authorities, and take control of supply chains. 

That means, effectively immediately, municipal states of emergency are suspended (none have been declared in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam or Port Moody).

It’s all part of an effort to stop the “patchwork” of emergency responses across the province, said Premier Horgan in a Thursday morning press conference.

"Dr. Henry's orders are not suggestions or good advice, they are the law," said Minister of Public Safety and the Solicitor General Mike Farnworth, who is also MLA for Port Coquitlam, referring to the province's provincial health officer.

Under the new set of measures, anyone breaking mandates handed down by Dr. Bonnie Henry — including those restricting gatherings to fewer than 50 people — could be subject to a fine or jail time.

The province is also asking municipalities to identify any city-owned facilities — including community centres — that could be used for self-isolation, testing, medical care, warehousing and distribution. 

The province will take a more active roll in delivering essential goods, including medical supplies and groceries. To that end, Farnworth said the the provincial government has established a new Provincial Supply Chain Coordination Unit to oversee distribution of goods. Effective immediately, any bylaws that restrict the delivery of goods at certain times of day are now rescinded. 

"We need to make sure those supply chains are open... to meet the needs in an emergency setting."

Further, the latest measures include a ban on the secondary resale of food, medical supplies, personal protective equipment like gloves and masks and cleaning supplies, and restrict how much any one shopper can purchase at the point of sale, according to a provincial press release. 

"Follow the orders. Follow the law. We'll all get through this together," said Horgan.

Read more of our COVID-19 coverage here.