The province is banning the resale of food, medical and cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said it would put an end to the “shameful black market for medical supplies” that has materialized as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
“People engaging in that behaviour can expect to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” he said at the Thursday press conference.
Those orders, which include a ban on gatherings of 50 or more, will now be enforced by municipal bylaw officers, Farnworth said during a Thursday (March 26) press conference.
People found that breaking those rules could face fines of more than $25,000 or jail time. If citizens see rules being broken, they should reach out to their municipality or other local government – not call 911.
“This is not a drill, it’s a pandemic,” said Premier John Horgan.
All bylaws that restrict the time goods can be delivered to stores have been suspended, while quantities of certain items available for purchase are being restricted. B.C., like many other regions, has seen a rush in grocery stores as people seek to stock up for the pandemic. A provincial spokesperson confirmed that specific shopping hours brought in by various grocery stores, such as for seniors and health care workers, are not affected.
The province is also creating a provincial supply chain coordination unit, to ensure essential goods and services are not disrupted.
“These are unprecedented measures for unprecedented times,” Farnworth said.
He reiterated the provincial health orders from Dr. Bonnie Henry.
“There needs to be a province-wide coordinated approach … and that is listening to, and implementing, the orders of our provincial health officers,” the public safety minister said.
“Practice physical distancing – do not leave home if you’re sick.”
Municipal states of emergency, enacted by several cities such as New Westminster, are suspended. Vancouver’s will continue, as they have a different set of rules based under its charter. States of emergency issued by First Nations governments will also carry on, a provincial spokesperson confirmed.
Horgan said the province was taking these measures to stop the “patchwork” of rules across B.C.
Horgan said a uniform approach is needed at this point to reduce panic and inspire confidence that the system is working.
British Columbia’s move comes after other provinces have taken stringent measures, including Quebec and Ontario which have ordered all non-essential businesses to close.
More to come.