Efforts are underway to clear the air and protect all B.C. residents from COVID-19.
Open burning restrictions have been issued across British Columbia’s high smoke sensitivity zones, which include the Okanagan.
The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy in collaboration with provincial public health partners has issued the restrictions until Wednesday, April 15. No new fires may be initiated and no additional material may be added to existing fires. A map of affected areas is shown in yellow in Figure 1 and a high resolution image can be accessed on the provincial Interactive Venting Index webpage.
As cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in B.C. continue to increase, the BC Centre for Disease Control recommends implementing measures that help to reduce excess air pollution in populated airsheds across the province.
“There is strong evidence that exposure to air pollution increases susceptibility to respiratory viral infections by decreasing immune function,” said Daniel Bings, with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.
This means that:
• Deterioration in air quality may lead to more COVID-19 infections overall,
• Deterioration in air quality may lead to more cases of severe COVID-19 infections, adding further demand to our healthcare system, and
• Improvements to air quality may help to protect the whole population from COVID-19 and its potentially severe effects.
“Evidence suggests that air pollution from combustion sources is most strongly associated with increased risk of viral infection, particularly vehicle emissions and biomass burning.,” said Bings in a release.
At this time the BC Centre for Disease Control strongly recommends that open burning of biomass fuels be restricted in areas with high or moderate risk of population exposure to the resulting smoke.
“While the focus should remain on social distancing to prevent the spread of infection and reduce the number of cases, keeping our air as clean as possible will also help to protect the population during this difficult period.”
For this reason The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy is restricting open burning in some parts of the province. These restrictions will be evaluated on a daily basis; the area to which they apply may grow or diminish accordingly.