The provincial government has declared a public health emergency as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic as the number of cases continues to climb in B.C.
B.C. has recorded 83 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 186 as of Tuesday afternoon.
There are now a total of seven cases in Interior Health, 116 cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, 47 in Fraser Health, 12 in Island Health and four in the Northern Health region.
There have also been three more deaths recorded, bringing to seven the number of deaths linked to the pandemic. Six of the seven deaths are connected to a Lynn Valley care home in North Vancouver. One additional death was in the Fraser Health region — a man in his 80s who passed away in the hospital.
Seven COVID-19 patients are in hospital, four of whom are in intensive care. The rest are recovering at home in isolation.
“We've taken a number of unprecedented measures in the last few days and this declaration of an emergency enables to be faster, more streamlined and nimble in the things that we need to do right now,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said.
By declaring a public health emergency, the provincial health officer can issue verbal orders with immediate effect and compel peace officers to enforce those orders, Health Minister Adrian Dix said.
This means that establishments such as restaurants and cafes will be required to close or move to take-out and delivery services if they cannot meet social-distancing requirements — keeping patrons one to two metres apart and limiting crowds to less than 50 — that have been made by the provincial health officer.
Businesses with liquor primary licenses, such as bars, pubs and nightclubs, however, are ordered to close.
“Those changes are obviously significant societal changes for people, but they are what are needed right now,” Dix said.
All other businesses and essential services that can remain open need to incorporate these social distancing measures for workers and customers.
“These are the tools we have to build our firewall so we are stopping that transmission between people in our communities,” Henry said.
The declaration also means health care workers can also be organized to perform their duties outside the health authorities they work in and it allows Dix to amend regulations with the consent of Cabinet and Henry to make changes to the public health act without the consent of the Legislature.
Henry noted that while the number of cases has jumped, so too has the number of people being tested for the virus.
“In the last few days we’ve had a dramatic increase in numbers of people going for testing, a number of people being tested as well as expansion of testing to five different sites in the province and more are coming on board, Henry said.
Henry said there’s a backlog of tests the government is still dealing managing as confirmatory testing continues to come in from the BC Centre for Disease Control, meaning more cases of the virus are likely forthcoming.
Henry said testing for the virus is being focused on clusters of outbreaks that may not be related to travel, and there is no need for people to be tested for the disease if they do not have symptoms of the virus.
The province also has a self assessment tool available on the BCCDC website, by clicking here.
This story was corrected from an earlier version that incorrectly stated the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Interior Health and the number of cases circulating in the other health authorities with the number of new cases.