A hand sanitizer dispenser and a sign indicating steps to be taken to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 is seen at an entrance to the Vancouver Convention Centre, in Vancouver, on Saturday, March 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. VIEWS: Effects of COVID-19 pandemic will be long-lasting

A steep drop in tourist visits will hit hard, in particular, Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland and the Okanagan hard

The fallout from the spreading COVID-19 virus could have a profound effect on B.C. It is likely to last far after the virus has stopped spreading.

The two biggest impacts will be on the economy and the health system. Those effects will become much more obvious in the coming weeks. The cruise ship season, a major driver of tourism in both Vancouver and Victoria, won’t start until at least July 1.

This is one of many things that will greatly diminish the flow of tourism dollars. B.C. is a tourism magnet for people in many parts of the world, but both Asia and Europe are suffering from major outbreaks of the virus and travel is the last thing on most people’s minds. Flights to the U.S. from Europe have been cancelled for 30 days, and Canada could follow suit. The federal government is already restricting which airports international flights can arrive at.

READ MORE: 39 new cases bring Canada’s COVID-19 count to at least 288

A steep drop in tourist visits will hit hard, in particular, Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland and the Okanagan hard.

Many conventions are held each year in B.C. Every day, there is news of a major gathering being cancelled or postponed. Sports leagues – professional and amateur – have also cancelled games.

The ports, another major driver of the B.C. economy, have already been suffering due to both COVID-19 and blockades. Much of the port traffic is to and from Asia, and there is no sign that it will resume its former volume anytime soon.

All these factors impact restaurants, service businesses, hotels and other areas of the economy. It is likely some businesses will close permanently. The economy is almost certain to see a decline.

The health care system is already dealing with COVID-19 and, thus far, is doing a solid job. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has been forthright and proactive. Her experience in Ontario during the 2003 SARS crisis is coming in very handy, and as a province, we are fortunate to have her.

However, should there be many more cases, our hospitals have little space to accommodate them. Fraser Health, with 1.9 million residents, is the largest in the province – but has just 80 intensive care beds. As of March 9, 10 per cent of those were empty. The situation is similar in other parts of the province.

The health system is woefully inadequate at times of crisis. Many B.C. residents do not have family doctors, and there are still too few of the badly needed urgent care centres which the current government is starting to set up.

READ MORE: Return home while you can, Ottawa tells Canadians as COVID-19 continues to spread

Homeless people may have other specific challenges, as their health is often poor and the virus will be able to spread quickly among them. They do not generally get much attention from the health system.

In Washington state, the epicentre of the disease in the U.S., most of the COVID-19 deaths have been linked to one seniors’ care home. These people have extremely fragile health and cannot fight off the virus. Should the virus enter a number of care homes, the immediate effect on the health system will be overwhelming. The one COVID-19 death in B.C. (as of March 13) was a resident of a North Vancouver care home.

The scenario is changing and bringing new challenges daily.

Frank Bucholtz is a columnist and former editor with Black Press Media. Email him at frank.bucholtz@blackpress.ca.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC ViewsCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Water recovery team stands down search for missing man in Stellako River

Jason Bouchard was in a boat with a friend that overturned in the river May 16

Canfor announces permanent closure of Isle Pierre Mill

The company also announced curtailments at their pulp mills in Prince George.

Cheslatta Carrier Nation to receive 30 greenhouses from Rio Tinto

With over two months since the COVID-19 restrictions were put in place,… Continue reading

Trudeau to seek 10 days of paid sick leave for all Canadians, says talks are ongoing

Paid sick leave is key to keeping COVID-19 spread under control, prime minister says

COVID-19: B.C. park reservations surge as campgrounds reopen

Keep trying, many sites not reservable, George Heyman says

B.C. residents can now reserve a provincial campsite for a stay starting June 1

Campsite reservations will only be available to British Columbians

Cullen commission into money laundering in British Columbia resumes today

Inquiry was called amid growing concern that illegal cash was helping fuel real estate, luxury car and gambling

Bike shops busier than ever, but owners worry about stock supply issues

Uptick in cyclists brings new challenges for shops

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Most Read