Local politicians are taking to social media to address concerns about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In a livestream posted to Facebook Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach acknowledged the seriousness of the pandemic but said he has confidence in rural communities to stand strong in the face of adversity.
“It’s something we saw during the wildfires a couple of years ago [and] we’re going to need that social capital, that social fabric more than ever over the coming weeks and months,” said Bachrach, who said changes coming in the following weeks could present unique challenges for many within the community.
He added that in times like these the natural tendency is to want to gather in a large public space and come up with a strategy, noting one of the unique challenges presented by the virus it stops people from doing just this.
Bachrach said in the coming weeks it will be up to citizens to use digital venues like social media to come up with ways stop spread of the virus.
But he also reminded residents it’s OK to be outside and that things like hiking, camping or just checking up on some particularly vulnerable folk in your area are all great ways to pass the time, as long as you’re not feeling ill.
He said as there was lots of news coming out rapidly about this situation, it’s important to only be sharing reputable sources of information, such as the Public Health Agency of Canada or the BC Centre for Disease Control, noting a rise in misinformation on social media related to the virus.
“I think the response overall in our country and in our province has been really solid and our government officials are taking this very seriously,” he said, adding that Canada is trying to avoid becoming the next country that finds itself in a situation like in Italy or Iran.
“We have this opportunity over the next coming days to respond in an effective way and to slow this virus down and it’s so critical that we all do everything we can to do that.”
In response to a question about how things like ventilators and oxygen will be managed if they are in overdemand, Bachrach said he had confidence in local hospitals.
“I know our health professionals are taking this very seriously and are taking the steps required so that they can handle any surge in patients,” he said.
On food supplies and hoarding, Bachrach said there was no reason to stockpile food beyond reasonable supplies.
“Our response to this situation is really going to speak volumes about who we are as people and who we are as a community.”
He also discussed the impacts of the virus from an economic point of view, noting that some of the most vulnerable individuals in situations like this are people in things like the gig economy or other forms of precarious employment who might not have access to employment insurance (EI).
“That has to be part of the federal response as well, we have to be sure that people who are paying a financial cost to stay at home have support that they need and for instance don’t get their utilities shut off,” said Bachrach, giving the example of No Frills in Kitimat which recently opened an hour early after stocking up on essentials to give seniors the ability to shop in a less stressful environment for anything they might need in the coming weeks.
“It’s an example of the kind of things that are possible when we look out for the most vulnerable people in our community,” said Bachrach of the gesture.
Looking to the future the Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP suggested things could get worse before they get better.
“There’s a real risk of travel being restricted even further,” said Bachrach, in response to a question about Trudeau’s announcement that borders would be closed to most non-Canadian citizens on the morning of Mar. 16.
On Mar. 17, the Province declared a public health emergency with provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry asking people to limit gatherings to under 50 people “for the foreseeable future”. On Mar. 18, it was announced that the U.S.-Canada border would be closed with the exception of essential supply chains.
Bachrach said his constituency offices across the region will be closed as of Mar. 16 but people will still be available to answer phone and serve residents.
He said while the coming weeks might be challenging, he is hopeful of the region’s ability to adapt to face the problem from a digital angle.
“Social media at times can be a pretty disappointing venue, but it’s times like this when people come together it can be a great tool,” said Bachrach.
“I think it’s going to be a critical part of coming together, without actually physically coming together, over the next bit.”
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