B.C. nurses are asking for more stringent social distancing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Canadian Press Photo)

B.C. nurses call for mandatory shutdown of all non-essential workplaces

Open letter to provincial, federal governments says current measures are insufficient

A collective of B.C. nurses are raising alarm bells over what they call an “insufficient and slow response” to the current spread of COVID-19.

Nurses from more than 40 B.C. hospitals signed an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and B.C. Premier John Horgan in which they call for a mandatory shutdown of every non-essential workplace.

“There is no reason whatsoever to think we cannot become another Italy. If nothing changes radically, we are certain to,” reads the letter, dated Monday, March 23.

“The only step that can prevent this is massive social distancing on a scale qualitatively beyond what has been done so far, because what has been done so far is simply not working.”

“To work, social distancing needs to include a mandatory shutdown of every workplace except those deemed essential – such as grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies and health care facilities,” the letter states. “It needs to include a shutdown of every place that can multiply the spread of the virus.”

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The nurses also emphasize the need to house the homeless “in a way that disperses them rather than jamming them into shelters that will only accelerate the virus’ spread.”

The letter calls for more government support to make social distancing possible, including financial support for those laid off and guarantees against eviction for renters and homeowners.

“Governments must take every step they can to remove the barriers that force people – especially poor people – to ignore calls to stay at home.”

The letter addresses the rapidly growing number of new cases in B.C. – including an increase from 88 cases on March 15 to 348 on March 20 – a 296 per cent jump. Since then the rate of increase has dipped slightly, with 48 new cases reported on March 23.

The nurses note that trend could represent the beginning of a flattening of “what has been an exponential curve,” but ask governments to “not relax vigilance.”

“We insist – we demand – that you act to implement mandatory social isolation. The measures to date are not working. This is an emergency. We need to act like it’s an emergency.”

READ ALSO: Greater Victoria street nurses ask government to help the homeless in COVID-19 crisis



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

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