On Thursday, city councillors unanimously decided to declare a state of emergency in Vancouver. It's among several Canadian cities to do so in recent days in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mayor Kennedy Stewart urged Vancouver to take swift action in order to keep residents safe.
The meeting started at 10 a.m. on March 19, just one day after Stewart first spoke up about it. "These are extraordinary times, and we all need to take fast and extraordinary action," said Stewart.
Vancouver's announcement comes days after B.C. declared its own public health emergency.
The motion means the city is able to enforce many new rules, such as getting all "public-serving" businesses to close, with the exception of takeout and delivery.
Stewart said that several bars and restaurants remained open to patrons on St. Patrick's day, despite being ordered to close.
He also says that this will help curb "unacceptable" panic buying. While shelves are being re-stocked regularly, rapid buying is causing short-term shortages in stores.
"If residents do not immediately change their behaviour and begin acting with their fellow Vancouverites in mind, I will work with local retailers and I will take action," said Stewart.
Here are the people of Vancouver, engaging in social distancing on Kitsilano Beach yesterday afternoon, after mayor… https://t.co/12fMkctYlc— Ian Young (@Ian Young) 1584646714.0
VANCOUVER STATE OF EMERGENCY Allows the @CityofVancouver to: -close all public serving businesses (remain open… https://t.co/w3g5LnDKdF— Emily Lazatin (@Emily Lazatin) 1584559113.0
The meeting this morning was done remotely, with most councillors calling in from self-isolation. This was the city's first entirely virtual meeting, reports CBC News.
Vancouver will be working with the province to discuss the details of this state of emergency call and how important action will be delegated.
Vancouver has a large, vulnerable population, says Stewart. This declaration will allow the city to deal with specific issues quickly and with more flexibility.
It will also allow police and fire departments to enforce public health orders, such as shutting down restaurants that violate the rules.
As of March 19, B.C. has 231 confirmed cases of COVID-19, as well as seven deaths. All of the virus-related deaths were within Vancouver area.