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B.C. premier extends state of emergency, announces orphan well cleanup program
VICTORIA -- B.C. Premier John Horgan has again extended the province's state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Horgan said Wednesday the provincial cabinet met earlier in the day and granted the two-week extension.
"The state of emergency will remain in place for the foreseeable future," the premier said, noting that approximately 78 per cent of British Columbians who have contracted COVID-19 are now fully recovered.
This is the fourth time the emergency status has been extended in the province since it was first declared in response to the novel coronavirus on March 18.
"COVID-19 is still here," the premier added. "Over this long weekend, we need to hold the line. We need to avoid all non-essential travel."
Horgan spoke to reporters from the B.C. legislature in Victoria and was joined via teleconference by Energy Minister Bruce Ralston in Vancouver.
The pair also announced a new oil and gas well cleanup program, funded by the federal government.
Ralston said the program, funded with $120 million from the federal government, is geared towards cleaning up abandoned and dormant oil and gas wells in the province's north.
"We estimate that these new programs will support up to 1,200 jobs in the oil and gas service sector," Ralston said.
The minister estimated that among B.C.'s 25,000 well sites, approximately 7,685 wells are dormant and 357 have been orphaned, or abandoned.
"Thanks to the co-operation between the governments of Canada and British Columbia, this program will mean a cleaner environment and much needed jobs for workers in B.C.," said Seamus O'Regan, Canada's Minister of Natural Resources, in a statement Wednesday.
Horgan encouraged British Columbians to get outside and enjoy local provincial parks again, starting Thursday, ahead of the broader reopening of the province on Tuesday.
The premier cautioned however that many businesses and services, such as medical and dentistry appointments, may take some time to come back online.
"I don't think people should expect that come next Tuesday everything's going to be back to the way it was," Horgan said.