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

Rio Tinto responds to U.S. aluminum import tariffs

The tariffs were imposed by President Donald Trump Aug. 6

Coastal GasLink breaks ground on meter station in Kitimat

Meter station marks final point on pipeline that stretches from Northeast B.C.

Mayoral nominations open Sept. 1

Deputy Mayor Gladys Atrill confirms she will be running for the top job

Brucejack mine fatality identified

Patrick Critch was from Newfoundland

Friendship Centre optimistic MMIWG mural will be painted this year

Following trauma-informed healing workshops, project is now in the design phase

QUIZ: Do you know the truth?

In what has been described as a post-truth era, how much do you know about truth and lies?

Simon Cowell breaks his back falling from electric bike

Incident happened at his home in California

VIDEO: Internet famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer explores Vancouver Island

Gurdeep Pandher spreads joy through dance, forms cross-cultural connections amid pandemic

Unofficial holidays: the weird and wonderful things people celebrate around the world

On any given day of the year, there are several strange, silly or serious holidays to observe

Moving on: Tanev scores 11 seconds into OT as Canucks oust Wild

Vancouver beats Minnesota 5-4 to move into first round of NHL playoffs

Gene editing debate takes root with organic broccoli, new UBC research shows

Broccoli is one of the best-known vegetables with origins in this scientific haze

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

3 Vancouver police officers test positive for COVID after responding to large party

Union president says other officers are self-isolating due to possible exposure

New mothers with COVID-19 should still breastfeed: Canada’s top doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam made the recommendation during World Breastfeeding Awareness Week

Most Read