Diagnostic services provided by the BC Ministry of Agriculture are continuing through the COVID-19 pandemic, says the executive director of the Plant and Animal Health Branch.
Jane Pritchard said that the branch is trying to minimize the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on the agriculture sector by remaining open and providing its services, which she called essential.
Plant and animal samples are still being received at the Abbotsford lab for analysis. The branch and its staff are following the public health protocols set forth by the province’s medical health officer.
While several groups have posted tips for keeping livestock healthy and safe from infection, Pritchard said there have been no cases of humans becoming infected with the new coronavirus from livestock.
“The science is in, and there is no transmission of the COVID-19 virus by dogs or other animals,” she said.
However, farmers who raise livestock may encounter disruptions in the supply of certain feed formulations because many vitamins and trace elements are solely manufactured in China, which was first to be hit by the virus. Several cities were locked down in January and February, stalling factories and reducing manufacturing output.
Pritchard said BC has been well-supplied to date, but those supplies aren’t being replaced. There have also been reports of panic-buying of feed at some suppliers.
Staff at Otter Feed in Aldergrove, for instance, reported that demand began increasing March 12, the day after the pandemic was declared and BC began limiting the size of public gatherings.
Pritchard said the course of the pandemic is difficult to foresee, saying she only has a “clouded crystal ball.” However, ministry staff are committed to providing essential services to growers as far as they’re able.
The province’s public health veterinarian, Dr. Brian Radke, is working closely with other public health officials as part of the province’s COVID-19 One Health Steering Group.