The province urgently needs to shift its COVID-19 response into high gear and deal with the recent increase in cases and the variants of concern.

The BC Green Party says since the beginning of April, more than 6,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and the public is looking to the government for transparency and decisive action.

The party is calling for a clear and targeted shutdown strategy for a three-week period that includes enforcement of non-essential travel measures, moving school online for most students, and immediate government support to temporarily close non-essential businesses.

Party leader Sonia Furstenau, the MLA for Cowichan Valley, says instead of bracing for the impact of rising variants, steps need to be taken to stop it right now.

Rather than leaving it up to individuals, she says what’s needed “is a coordinated response and action from government that shows they are taking the immediate and long-term threat of COVID-19 seriously.”

She wants to see “a sense of leadership” in response to rising case numbers and calls from doctors, epidemiologists, and experts to “get in front of the COVID-19 variants.”

Furstenau warns variants of concern will soon be the majority of the cases and the government needs to explain why “it’s not adapting to the changing reality of this virus by tailoring their vaccination rollout to target young people.”

She says there’s a race between variants and the vaccines “and the variants are moving very quickly.”

The BC Green Party says there should be expanded asymptomatic testing and rapid testing in workplaces, schools, businesses, and neighbourhoods.

The party also calls for increased staffing at vaccination clinics and extended hours to administer all doses of vaccine as soon as they arrive in the province.

According to Furstenau, the third wave is the outcome of inaction: “We were not dealt a bad hand – we loosened restrictions despite rising variant cases, allowed out-of-province travel, stalled in-school mask mandates, and did not enforce orders or tailor messaging to hit those who have not been following orders.”

She says the current methods and the messaging are not working and wants a COVID zero strategy rather than one of tolerating high rolling averages.