Vancouver City Council declares local state of emergency

March 19 2020 –

Vancouver City Council voted today to declare a local state of emergency as a result of COVID-19. 

Declaring a local state of emergency allows us to take additional measures to ensure we have the resources needed to maintain essential services and meet the demands of other agencies, including Vancouver Coastal Health.

These measures include:

  • Acquiring or using land or personal property to prevent, respond to, or alleviate the effects of the emergency, including the use of buildings to assist with the increased demands for healthcare, shelter, and childcare
  • Procuring on a first-priority basis any clothing, equipment, medical supplies, or other essential supplies required to cope with the emergency, for the duration of the emergency
  • Restricting the use or occupancy of any premises within the City of Vancouver

Grants amended to help social service agencies respond to the emergency

Council also voted to amend the 2020 Community Service Grants and Renter Service Grants approvals to encompass the COVID-19 response. 

Social services agencies in Vancouver are working very hard to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the people they support. This change will allow the community to respond to COVID-19 as quickly as possible. These organizations can now use the grant streams to:

  • Support work within the community to mitigate or prevent the transmission of COVID-19
  • Assist any service recipients who contract COVID-19
  • Protect the health of the employees and volunteers of these agencies

Task force working to improve communication and find more places for people to self-isolate

We have partnered with Vancouver Coastal Health and BC Housing on a multi-agency public partner task force to identify and implement measures to help protect people who are experiencing homelessness, living in single room occupancy housing units (SROs), and in the Downtown Eastside (DTES).

The task force is working to:

  • Improve communications with DTES residents and service providers
  • Secure additional locations where people who need to self-isolate but are experiencing homelessness can go
  • Consider other basic needs such as food security and access to medication and safe supply
  • Connect with community networks and organizations to support in the response design and delivery

Park washrooms remain open and serviced

This week, we deployed 11 handwashing stations in the Downtown Eastside and the Park Board deployed one station in Oppenheimer Park. Four were stolen and three of those have since been recovered. Please help ensure these essential services remain intact. We are all in this together and need to ensure everyone has access to proper handwashing stations. All washrooms in parks remain open and are being serviced. 

Public access to City buildings is now limited, yet many services are available online, by phone, or by appointment

To curb the potential spread of COVID-19, we are now limiting public access to many City buildings. This includes:

  • City Hall
  • Development and Building Services Centre
  • Engineering Services Client Services Counter

Many services will continue to be available online, by phone or by appointment.

All Vancouver Park Board, Vancouver Public Library and Vancouver Civic Theatre sites remain closed.

We have announced several closures and service impacts as a result of COVID-19.

We continue to work with public health officials and multiple partners on the COVID-19 response. There is the potential for even further service closures in the days to come as we make every effort to ensure essential services are maintained to the highest level. 

View the full list of closures and impacts at

Follow our news and Twitter for official updates

We appreciate there is a lot of information circulating at this time, and not all of it is coming from verified sources. All updates from the City of Vancouver will be noted within our news releases, on our website, and our verified social feeds. Follow @CityofVancouver on Twitter to receive the latest updates on COVID-19 response.


Mayor Kennedy Stewart

"Today, with the advice of our senior staff and emergency management team, Council took swift action to ensure our City has all the tools it needs to keep Vancouver residents safe. By declaring a local state of emergency in the City of Vancouver, we are ensuring we have the tools we need to protect and house vulnerable residents, deploy medical supplies and equipment, and restrict the operations of any property in Vancouver. This will help our staff, many of whom are essential front-line workers, do their jobs safely. But we all need to do our part to help essential staff do their jobs: stay home if you can, avoid close contact with others in public, and obey the directives of the City and public health officials." 

City Manager Sadhu Johnston

“Declaring a local state of emergency means our dedicated teams can now take the appropriate next steps as we work around the clock to combat the impacts of COVID-19. We know this is a difficult situation for many, but we will get through this together and this declaration provides additional tools for staff in addressing this rapidly evolving situation.” 

Councillor Christine Boyle

“This pandemic is making clear what was always the case: We are interdependent. We are safer and healthier when everyone is safe and healthy. Strong and well-funded public services, public health systems, social safety nets, make everyone better off. 

Today’s decision to declare a local state of Emergency is a reflection of the urgency and seriousness with which Vancouver City Staff, Mayor and Council are approaching the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation. Residents can do their part by taking it seriously too. Wash your hands. Cancel your plans. Reach out from a distance to support one another. We’re all in this together.”

Councillor Jean Swanson

”I’m happy that the City will now be able to acquire buildings and supplies that we need and I hope that, if the province doesn’t bring in an eviction moratorium before April 1st, that the City will seek to expand our own powers to do this. Take care out there everyone!”

Councillor Pete Fry

On the Emergency Declaration: "Vancouverites should feel secure knowing that today's decision to declare a local state of emergency is not something to fear, but a tool that we are deploying to make rapid decisions in order to keep residents safe where and as we need to."

On grants: "The COVID-19 crisis has brought out the kindness, compassion and some of the very best of Vancouver. Through rapid deployment of our already-approved direct social service grants, we are ensuring  that we are getting resources to communities supporting communities in this time of need."