The City of Vancouver has officially declared a local state of emergency.
Mayor Kennedy Stewart first announced his intention to make the declaration Wednesday, March 18; the same day the B.C. government declared a provincial state of emergency and a day after provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry declared a public health emergency in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The measure was approved unanimously during a virtual council meeting Thursday, March 19.
“We do feel that there are a number of measures that we may need to take in the coming days,” said city manager Sadhu Johnston.
According to a report from Johnston, declaring a state of emergency gives the city manager, deputy city manager and fire chief additional “emergency powers,” including the ability to:
- Acquire or use land or personal property to prevent, respond to or alleviate the effects of the emergency, including the use of buildings to assist with the increased demands for healthcare, shelter and childcare.
- Procure any clothing, equipment, medical supplies or other essential supplies required to cope with the emergency, for the duration of the emergency.
- Restrict the use or occupancy of any premises within the City of Vancouver. Johnston said enacting the local state of emergency won’t have an overarching effect on the city.
“It isn’t the kind of wide sweeping measure that will change the entire city,” he said, adding that it will give the City the power to enact any specific recommendations coming from the province.
For example, it would give the city the power to temporarily use a building or space to set up additional shelter space.
The bylaw would also enable the city to restrict activities in certain businesses.
Earlier this week, Stewart raised concerns about people packing bars and restaurants on St. Patrick’s Day. Vancouver Coastal Health chief medical officer Dr. Patricia Daly subsequently ordered all bars, restaurants, lounges and other similar venues closed on March 17.
However, the mayor noted yesterday that many smaller restaurants remained open to patrons and some Vancouverites were still out Tuesday night.