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Daily update on COVID-19 pandemic in Surrey, White Rock and beyond

MARCH 17: 83 new cases of COVID-19 in the province, three additional deaths
Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, provided an update on novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Friday in Vancouver. (BC Government)

The latest from Surrey, White Rock and beyond on the COVID-19 outbreak for Tuesday, March 17. This will be updated as new information becomes available.

Daily updates for Wednesday, March 18, can be found here.

In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced:

• 83 new cases of COVID-19 in the province. Total COVID-19 cases in B.C. reaches 186.

• Province declares the outbreak a public health emergency.

• Three new deaths have been reported, two linked to Lynn Valley Care Centre.

• Bars, pubs, entertainment venues must close, Dr. Henry said, because they cannot maintain social distancing measures.

• Minister Adrian Dix says Dr. Henry’s orders can now be enforced under health emergency authority.

• Restaurants that cannot practice social-distancing among its guests and manage crowd sizes has also been ordered to close.

• Province to receive new “huge shipment” of N95 medical masks.

• Dr. Henry says big spike in number – up 83 to 186 total – is a reflection of the number of tests being done.

• Strategy for testing has changed. Dr. Henry says if there are no symptoms, don’t do a test – “it doesn’t work, essentially.”

• Dr. Henry said there’s no need for a “blanket” closure of border to U.S. citizens, but B.C. wants border closed to visitors – excluding trade and essential services.

“People who are coming as tourists to visit – this is not the right time.”

In an earlier press conference, the province announced:

• B.C. suspends K-12 classes at this time due to COVID-19. Ministry of Education directing all schools to suspend in-school instruction “until further notice,” including private schools.

Childcare will remain available, Premier John Horgan said, however it’s an “evolving situation.” Horgan says parents should plan in case things change.

“We’re used to schools being safe spaces… but as global pandemic COVID-19 is growing we have to protect our students,” Minister of Education Rob Fleming said.

• Every student will receive a final mark. Every student on track to move to the next grade will do so.

• Fleming says some schools will stay open to provide schooling for essential workers such as first responders and health care professionals.

• Minister of Finance Carole James said they’re working on how they can, and must respond to protect economy, small business.

“We have to remember as well, this is a marathon, not a sprint,” James said.

• James said B.C. is working with federal government to bring in immediate relief for people and businesses.

• James announced B.C. will plan for economic recovery.

• There is no need to “overstock” food, toilet paper or other supplies due to the COVID-19 outbreak, James said.

Local news:

• City of White Rock has cancelled four public information meetings, which were scheduled to take place March 18, March 24, March 26 and March 31.

• The Surrey Board of Trade is calling on all levels of government to throw a lifeline to local businesses suffering because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

• The City of White Rock closed its Engineering and Operations Centre (877 Keil St.) and City Hall Annex (1174 Fir St.). More information on the closures, which were attributed to COVID-19 concern, can be found here.

• The provincial auto insurer, ICBC is cancelling all road tests for at least the next two weeks. ICBC announced today that cancellations will apply to all motorcycle, passenger, and commercial road tests.

• The head of Vancouver International Airport says staff are ready to act as the only major airport in B.C. – and one of only four in Canada – to accept travellers into the country.

• What’s open and closed in B.C. as a result of COVID-19.

• B.C. legislature to reopen with fewer MLAs to tackle coronavirus.

• B.C. School Sports suspends spring season.

• People are now allowed to remain in their vehicles while travelling on BC Ferries during coronavirus pandemic.

• Surrey-White Rock MLA Tracy Redies issued a news release Tuesday morning raising concern about anxiety and isolation that the next few weeks will bring to our neighbours.

“This is especially true of seniors living on their own. Please make a point of contacting your neighbours, without getting too close, and checking that they are OK. If all of us call one of our immediate neighbours every day, we will have a safer and healthier community,” the release notes.

She noted that her office is closed and will not be taking any in-person meetings at this time.

COVID-19: Cancelled, postponed Surrey events due to coronavirus outbreak

• Alzheimer Society of B.C. announced it will be unable to host its annual IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer’s in White Rock on May 3.

“We are committed to coming together and having this event go ahead in a different way, perhaps virtually. Please stay tuned for more information, but keep May 3 free in your calendar,” Cathryn France, the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s Director of Resource Development, said in a news release.

• Canada has 433 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The majority of those are in Ontario with 185 cases and in B.C. with 103. Ontario reported its first death.

• BC Ferries cancels sailings between Vancouver, and Victoria. Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay noon and 2 p.m. sailings cancelled Tuesday and Wednesday.

• Vancouver Coastal Health ordered Vancouver bars and restaurants to close for St. Patrick’s Day.

• White Rock Elks cancel its Patrick’s Day event.

In a news conference Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced:

• Stressed importance of “social distancing” and staying home.

“Don’t go out unless you absolutely have to. Work remotely if you can, let the kids run around a bit in the house,” Trudeau said.

• As of Wednesday, Parks Canada is suspending visitor services at all national parks and historic sites.

“What this means for our parks is that pretty much everything with a door will be closed.”

• Global Affairs offering up to $5,000 in emergency assistance to help Canadians abroad.

• Canada looking at Emergency Act to see what could benefit the COVID-19 response.

About the Author: Aaron Hinks

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