Perhaps my question yesterday was not straightforward enough. Today I got straight to the point: does the Minister of Health Adrian Dix acknowledge that COVID-19 is airborne? No answer – just spin.
It is astonishing that what should be a simple question to answer leads to a contortionist act from our government. The WHO, Canada Health, and the international scientific community all agree that COVID-19 is airborne. It is crucial for this government to recognize that COVID-19 is airborne because that creates a guiding point for decision making and measuring success. Ensuring every British Columbian has access to N95s becomes a priority.
S. Furstenau: The World Health Organization states that COVID can spread “in poorly ventilated and/or crowded indoor sittings, where people tend to spend longer periods of time. This is because aerosols can remain suspended in the air or travel farther than conversational distance. This is often called long-range aerosol or long-range airborne transmission.”
My question is to the Minister of Health. Does he agree with the World Health Organization that COVID is an airborne virus?
Hon. A. Dix: I think the member will know that from the beginning of the pandemic, Dr. Henry, our public health teams and the Ministry of Health have consistently advised people that outdoors is safer than indoors, that we need to take specific action to ensure that people are protected indoors. That’s why we’ve had all of the measures that have happened over time, including a mask mandate that continues to this day, including the B.C. vaccine card that continues to this day and will continue for some months to come. That includes other public health measures to limit capacity and to limit transmission.
Consistently over that time, that has been the case and the advice, because outdoors is safer than indoors, and this question has been repeatedly answered by Dr. Henry in that regard: that we have to continue to take the steps necessary to protect one another and to protect people’s health in a global pandemic. That’s what we’ll continue to do.
Mr. Speaker: Leader of the Third Party, supplemental.
S. Furstenau: It’s strange to me that we can’t just have the simple phrase: “COVID is an airborne virus.” It matters because the policies and protections that the minister speaks of are moved by this recognition of it being an airborne virus. N95 masks, standards for ventilation, air filtration and measuring air quality indoors are appropriate responses to an airborne virus.
Clear information, knowledge and protections made available to citizens are essential in a pandemic. Yet in B.C., health care workers and patients in hospitals have been denied access to the most basic tool for an airborne virus, which is an N95 mask.
My question is again to the Minister of Health. Will he commit to ensuring that British Columbians indeed have access to the protections that help reduce and manage an airborne virus, including N95s?
Hon. A. Dix: Consistently, from the beginning of the pandemic, officials in the Ministry of Health, our health care teams — have made extraordinary efforts to make sure that our health care workers have the PPE necessary to protect themselves. We have currently, for example, 7.7 million N95 masks.
Hon. A. Dix: Well, we receive a contribution from the Opposition House Leader.
Those are in place because it’s absolutely necessary to have a stockpile of masks well into the future, a lesson that was well learned when international supply lines were interrupted and traditional suppliers were unable to provide those masks in March and April of 2020.
We’ve made an extraordinary effort to ensure that the PPE is available to keep our health workers safe and that it is used with the guidance of those who are expert in the area, in public health, to do so.
I think that is the right approach. It’s an approach that has protected health care workers, that has been guided by public health and that demonstrates our commitment to support health care workers — a commitment that has been demonstrated in our support for those workers, in long-term care and assisted living, in acute care and in the community from the beginning of the pandemic through a number of measures that I think are overwhelmingly supported by British Columbians and by members of this House.