Full lockdown in Vancouver would be health officers' call, mayor says

·3 min read

A full lockdown in Vancouver would be at the discretion of public health officers, said Mayor Kennedy Stewart on Wednesday.

"We all just follow the orders of [Provincial Health Officer] Dr. Bonnie Henry as well as with our local health officers, [Chief Medical Health Officer of Vancouver Coastal Health] Dr. Patricia Daly here, and we're letting science dictate the policy," said Stewart to host Stephen Quinn on CBC's The Early Edition.

The Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions have been under strict new restrictions since Saturday due to spiking COVID-19 cases in the region. The new restrictions include limits on social gatherings outside of residents' immediate households.

Stewart's comments came after the mayors of Metro Vancouver met with Henry, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth in a virtual meeting Tuesday to co-ordinate the region's response to COVID-19.

Stewart said that in the spring, at the start of the pandemic, things were less co-ordinated. It was fears of transmission around St. Patrick's Day festivities that really set into motion the first set of COVID-19 restrictions.

This time around, Stewart said the city is preparing for any eventuality as per the dictates of public health.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

The city's emergency centre is currently sitting at Level 2. This means the city has moved up from monitoring the situation to now having personnel ready to go.

Level 3, the highest level, would mean re-organizing community centres for the city's most vulnerable, re-implementing a hot meal program, and intense cleanings at SROs, Stewart says.

"We were at Level 1 through August. We've moved back up to Level 2 now ... and if we have to go back up to Level 3, which is our top level [and] which we [were at] in the spring, we're ready to go there," he said.

"If we have to get our bylaw officers and police out to, you know, have stricter enforcement, we're ready for that. We've been through it once, and so we're ready to go again."

One thing, he said, that has changed since the spring is the role of bars and restaurants. Since new COVID-19 safety measures have been implemented, transmission in these establishments hasn't been a major issue.

"I was just talking to Dr. Patricia Daly ... and we hadn't had a transmission within a public establishment in the city for about a month," he said.

This means, Stewart says, that the city can continue to keep bars and restaurants open and operating with restrictions.

"That's really important because the first wave was very, very hard on these businesses. And, you know, a second closure or lockdown would, you know, might end these folks," he said.

"We have to, of course, follow the science, but not over-react. And I think that's why it's so important to stay in contact and co-ordinate."

Listen to the full interview with Mayor Kennedy Stewart here: