Finance minister says outbreak is going to hurt

COVID-19 will have impact, James says at Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge Chamber of Commerce

B.C.’s and Canada’s economy are going to take a hit from the respiratory virus that’s raging around the world. But B.C. Finance Minister Carole James said she’s talking to B.C. businesses to learn of the impact that it’s having.

“There is no question that there will be an impact on the economy, no question, an impact on the economy,” across B.C., Canada and the world, said James.

“We’re already seeing growth projections shift,” James told the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Chamber of Commerce Thursday.

But she said the best economic plan the government has in dealing with the COVID-19 virus is ensuring the health of its people.

“So our focus right now is on the health of our citizens,” James said.

“This is ever-changing. This is going to change day to day and so we are monitoring. We are gathering information,” James said.

Some schools have closed in the U.S., while Ontario has extended its spring break by two weeks while Quebec has banned meetings of more than 250 people.

But asked if B.C. was underestimating the impact of the disease, James said she had confidence in Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry who are providing daily updates to the province. Another update was expected Thursday.

“I have complete confidence as I know British Columbians do, in the work that’s going on. As you know, this is an ever-changing experience,” as testing and daily public briefings continue, James added.

Maple Ridge Mayor Mike Morden said that the city is taking its cue from Fraser Health in dealing with the pandemic.

READ MORE: Two COVID-19 cases confirmed at second Metro Vancouver care home

“We’re working on preparedness obviously, but we take our lead from Dr. Bonnie Henry.”

He posted health tips on his personal Facebook page because he can’t speak for the health authorities.

“But obviously we want to put out proactive information. We want people to stay well … keep people calm and pro-active,” Morden said.

READ MORE: ‘Social distancing’ ramps up as COVID-19 spreads and economic toll mounts

Instead of watching videos showing people panic buying, people are forgetting to wash with soap and water and not to touch others. “Making sure that you’re just being smart, health wise,” Morden said.

“But don’t attend large crowds and don’t get on a cruise ship,” Morden said, adding there are tremendous economic impacts when people do get sick.

James highlighted the provincial budget, written before the COVID-19 crisis, which calls for a $227-million surplus in 2020, with the lowest unemployment rate in the country. The province is also putting an extra billion dollars into health care this year and is building 14 urgent and primary care centres around B.C.

The finance minister highlighted other areas pointing to 2,400 modular housing units have been built which she called a “huge success,” saying it was life changing to get people off the streets.

“… it’s not only had a social impact, but it’s had a big economic impact in our province as well.”

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