Lockdown to remain for weeks; some restrictions likely until vaccine found

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix says there’s “zero chance” any of the COVID-19 orders now in place will change by the end of April. “What it looks like in May or June or July is harder to say. A lot of it depends on whether people are committed, as I believe they are.”

At a news conference with Dix on Tuesday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the first wave of the virus will likely last at least the next few weeks and into May, with a second phase expected in the fall.

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She is hopeful of a reprieve during the summer, if all restrictions and recommendations are followed in the crucial weeks ahead.

Some form of COVID-19 monitoring and restrictions will likely be in place until a vaccine is found, said Henry

In an address broadcast online and on television Tuesday evening, Premier John Horgan asked people to stick with the advice of public health officials by staying home as much as possible and to keep physical distance from others.

“We need 100% commitment from everyone to get this done,” he said.

Horgan said the province will announce a plan today to make sure health-care workers have the equipment and supplies they need to stay safe. It will involve a partnership between the government, businesses and tech companies to get workers what they need, such as hand sanitizer that is being made by distillers in B.C.

Horgan also announced the province is extending the state of emergency through to the end of the day on April 14.

Henry announced 43 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in B.C., bringing the total to 1,013. Island Health remains at 67 confirmed cases.

Five additional deaths were announced, four in the Vancouver Coastal health authority and one in Fraser Health. A total of 24 people have died of COVID-19 in B.C.

Of those who have tested positive for COVID-19, 507 have recovered and are no longer in isolation, Henry said.

Interior Health is investigating a COVID-19 outbreak involving a group of temporary foreign workers in on-site housing at an agricultural business, Bylands Nurseries Ltd, in West Kelowna, Henry said, calling it the “first big community outbreak.” A number of the workers have tested positive for the virus and the business is being quarantined.

“No one is immune to this virus, but everybody can make a difference,” Henry said.

There is no number that is safe for gatherings, she said.

“We’re all in that place where anytime we get together with more than our household members or families, we’re putting ourselves at risk and particularly if we are going to be in contact with people who are older and more likely to have severe illness.”

If you are older, staying home keeps you away from those who could put you at risk, she said. If you are young, staying apart means preserving important capacity within our health-care system for the elderly and others at highest risk.

There are 128 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 61 in intensive-care. “That’s 61% of acute-care capacity filled right now and 63.8% of critical-care capacity,” said Dix.

The province currently has 4,171 vacant hospital beds in preparation for COVID-19 patients and more off-site facilities identified for patients who don’t necessarily need to be in hospital, mainly people waiting to move to care homes.

The vacancies are due largely to the province’s cancellation of elective surgeries and procedures.

Dix said “nobody has sacrificed more” than those waiting for surgery. “I just want to say to all of them while the surgeries have been cancelled for the moment they have not been forgotten,” he said. “I expect … once we get through this, at whatever point that is, to move with as much energy, passion and compassion in addressing their surgeries as we have in dealing with COVID-19.”

There are 19 hospitals in the province designated as COVID-19 hospitals, including Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria.

Dix said the province now has another 83 ventilators available, in addition to the 1,272 announced last week.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

— With The Canadian Press

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