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B.C. has declared a state of emergency to ensure a province wide response to the COVID-19 pandemic and protect the supply chain of essential goods and services.

The measure supported provincial health authorities and would allow a “swift and powerful response” to novel coronavirus, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said Wednesday.

Farnworth called the declaration an all-hands-on-deck approach.

“At this juncture, we need to ensure we will continue to have the means to co-ordinate our response across government and across industry, and that we’ll have the tools available to protect the most vulnerable,” he said.

The B.C. government can now implement measures ­– such as securing access to land, human resources, and critical supply chains – required in responding to a provincial emergency.

[Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth declared a B.C. state of emergency on Wednesday. Photo: B.C. Gov]

​​​​​The province’s supply chains are in “good shape” but the state of emergency allows “extraordinary powers that can be brought to bear in extraordinary situations,” said Farnworth.

As such, government can prohibit the buying and reselling of essential or medical supplies at inflated prices, said Farnworth.

“There is no place for price gouging,” he stressed.

“There is no place for either retailers or individuals taking advantage of an unprecedented health situation in this province, in this country and globally. ...We take this issue very, very seriously.”

Local Pharmacy Response

"It's frustrating. But it’s in the best interests of my customers and employees because I don’t want to get anybody sick,” says pharmacist Colleen Hogg about self-isolation and working from home.

Colleen Hogg, pharmacist and owner of the Cove Pharmacy on Quadra Island, said some changes were in place prior to the provincial announcement to ensure and regulate the supply of medications.

Hogg said that her pharmacy, which serves both Quadra and Cortes islands, is limiting prescriptions to 30-day fills unless medically justified, as recommended by the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPA).

“The main thing is not to panic and not to stock up excessively on medications, because they are trying to prevent a shortage, like there was with toilet paper,” she said. “Supply is not an issue at this point. We’ve been told supply is fine.”

However, there have been some cases of people wanting to fill prescriptions for six months at a time, she said.

“At this point, that’s not beneficial for anyone,” Hogg said. “We want to prevent hoarding and so everybody gets what they need.”

Hogg hopes the province will use its powers under the state of emergency to equalize delivery of medications to rural pharmacies to ensure adequate supply in the face of increased demand.

“In the city pharmacies get deliveries twice daily, but we get them two-four times a week,” said Hogg.

New COVID-19 cases

Farnworth’s announcement followed hard on the heels of B.C.’s declaration of a public health emergency the day before.

Health authorities reported 45 new coronavirus cases in B.C. on Wednesday, bringing the total number to 231.

There are now a total of 16 cases in the Island Health region.

Some 13 people are in hospital, seven of them in intensive care. Five people have recovered, said Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the majority of cases involved patients who are stable and resting at home in self-isolation.

Dix and Henry appealed to the public to protect those most vulnerable to the virus – such as the elderly, those with compromised immune systems or underlying conditions, and to take social-distancing and self-isolation measures seriously.

Dix referred to fighting COVID-19 as a shared battle and shared responsibility: “We count on each other to take the appropriate precautions, to keep one another safe.”

Responding to call for self-isolation

Hogg is well aware of the sacrifices and responsibilities associated with following self-isolation orders.The pharmacist is self-isolating at home after a trip abroad.

She’s working from home in conjunction with her staff at the pharmacy to meet increased demand for prescriptions during the coronavirus crisis.

“It’s frustrating. I’m really tempted to go into work because it’s extremely busy and puts a lot more pressure on my staff,” said Hogg.

She’s answering patient queries by email to pull traffic from the pharmacies phone lines and doing all the ordering and paper work, rather than dispensing.

“But it’s in the best interests of my customers and employees because I don’t want to get anybody sick,” she said.

As a result, Hogg appealed to customers to not to enter the pharmacy if they have any symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, cough, respiratory illness or tiredness.

“It’s imperative not to expose staff or other customers,” said Hogg, adding the last thing people wanted was for pharmacy employees to get ill.

“If we don’t have staff, we can’t help anybody,” she said.

To cut down the physical traffic in the pharmacy and lighten its call load, Hogg asked customers that could to order refills online .

Under the new health measures, clients needing refills for medications they already use, no longer need to go to their doctor to get a prescription refill, said Hogg. They can request a refill directly from the pharmacy.

Those needing a new prescription still must consult their doctor.

She also asked customers to allow extra time, at least 24 hours, from the refill request until pick up, so the pharmacy could respond to the increased demand.

Customers with non-urgent questions can email [email protected], said Hogg.

BC Government COVID-19 resources

BC COVID-19 Symptom Self-Assessment Tool is at covid19.thrive.health/

If you or family member have serious symptoms or need medical advice call 811

For up-to-date non-health information, including provincial and federal program or the latest travel restrictions, call 1-888-COVID-19, or visit: gov.bc.ca/covid19