A Vancouver infectious diseases specialist says a new COVID variant that has now been recorded in Canada has probably been in circulation for weeks if not months. Dr. Brian Conway, medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre, says the new B-A-2-86 variant has emerged like other variants, crowding out older strains and taking over, though it hasn’t been shown to cause more severe illness as of yet. Conway says the first case being recorded here in BC is a reminder that COVID never truly went away, and it’s important to keep up practices that have been beneficial like hand washing, staying home from work and getting vaccinated. The BC Centre for Disease Control says it recorded Canada’s first case of the new variant in a patient in the Fraser Health region who had not travelled outside the province recently.
Police in Victoria say they’ve arrested a man in connection with a series of arson fires this summer. Victoria police say the man was arrested on Sunday after a lengthy investigation by the force’s major crimes section. They say 42-year-old Edwin Singh now faces four counts of arson in connection with four fires this summer, three of which occurred on Government Street in Victoria in June and July and one in Saanich in mid-August. Police say no one was hurt in the fires, but the incidents caused significant property damage.
The BC Civil Liberties Association says it is deeply concerned about the provincial government’s support for cities that have evicted people that are homeless from street encampments. The association says it met with Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon on Tuesday after evictions of campers on Vancouver’s Hastings Street and Abbottsford’s Lonzo Park, which it says were illegal. The civil liberties group says the housing minister should issue a moratorium on municipal decampments of people who are homeless, and hold municipalities accountable for violating people’s rights during what it calls a dire housing crisis. The association says the BC government needs to urgently come up with a plan to create new housing and shelter spaces before the winter comes, and start collaborating with people with lived experience of homelessness to properly address the province’s ongoing housing crisis.
The BC Green Party says the provincial government needs to commit to being transparent about what it’s doing to prevent drug overdose deaths. The BC Coroners Service revealed that 190 people died of toxic drugs in July, and Green Leader Sonia Furstenau says the deaths have taken a devastating toll on communities for years. Furstenau says the province should be regularly reporting its progress and concrete actions to tackle the crisis instead of repeatedly making promises without results. She says it’s time to move past press releases and words of sadness and sympathy and start taking action by regularly reporting key indicators, such as the number of people with access to safe supply, overdose prevention facilities, affordable housing, mental health supports and treatment spaces.
Emergency personnel in the Okanagan say the cleanup is beginning for some communities hit by wildfires and associated power outages. Central Okanagan Emergency Operations says it’s beginning the recovery process starting with curbside collection of fridges and freezers ruined by power outages. Residents can schedule pickups by email, and the operations centre says people should seal the appliances with duct tape and place them on curbs just before 8 in the morning to reduce the chances of animals getting to them. The service will be offered until further notice, but the city’s landfill is only taking household waste due to smoldering refuse being disposed of in waste bins and igniting fires there recently.
BC’s education minister says the province is working with school districts affected by wildfires to make sure they have plans for students who may still be evacuated due to ongoing blazes. The ministry says two public schools are in areas under evacuation orders, while 12 others and three independent schools are in areas on evacuation alert. Education Minister Rachna Singh says no schools have been damaged by wildfires this season, but some students and teachers may still be out of their home communities by the time school starts on September 5th. The ministry says it’s providing counselling services for students and staff who may have been affected by the fires, particularly people who have lost homes during this year’s record wildfire seasons