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

Thomas Dawson Peacock
Surrey man, 32, charged with sexual interference

Incidents alleged to have happened in Surrey and Abbotsford

A Mercedes SUV is covered at a gas station in the Clayton area following a deadly shooting there on Sept. 28, 2019. (File photo)
Seven youths from Surrey/White Rock were recognized at Thursday’s SASSY Awards. Top row from left: Joon Sohn, Samuel Albert, Sherry Sandhu and Abbie Dubet; bottom row from left: Amberlee Moore, Kristen Ricord, Anna McNicholl. (Contributed photo)
Seven Surrey/White Rock youth honoured at SASSY Awards

Annual event held virtually this year due to COVID-19 pandemic

A reminder to students at Surrey’s Strawberry Hill Elementary to physically distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Five Surrey schools report COVID-19 exposures, with another at Sullivan Heights

INTERACTIVE TABLE: Search for schools, organize by exposure dates

Over the years, Janice Blackie-Goodine’s home in Summerland has featured elaborate Halloween displays and decorations each October. (File photo)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about Halloween?

Oct. 31 is a night of frights. How much do you know about Halloween customs and traditions?

FILE - In this Jan. 23, 1987 file photo, actor Sean Connery holds a rose in his hand as he talks about his new movie “The Name of the Rose” at a news conference in London. Scottish actor Sean Connery, considered by many to have been the best James Bond, has died aged 90, according to an announcement from his family. (AP Photo/Gerald Penny, File)
Actor Sean Connery, the ‘original’ James Bond, dies at 90

Oscar-winner was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000

Hay bales can be donated to Critter Care Wildlife Society. (Critter Care/Special to The Star)
Straw bales used for Halloween decor can be donated to Critter Care Wildlife Society

Langley animal facility said they are always need in of fresh bedding

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

The Excelsior 4 are set to make their second court appearance in Abbotsford on Monday (Nov. 2). (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
‘Excelsior 4’: Animal activists set to enter not guilty plea in Abbotsford hog farm case

Animal rights activists expected to plead not guilty to charges, protest for Vancouver scheduled

Dennis Cholowski shows off a Jordan 2 Retro Just Don Blue sneaker, the type of shoe only a true sneakerhead would appreciate. (Facebook photo)
VIDEO: Chilliwack Chiefs alum Dennis Cholowski shows off ‘sneakerhead’ collection

The Detroit Red Wing has been spending his NHL paycheques building up an impressive closet of shoes

Most Read