Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam speaks during a press conference on COVID-19 at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa, on Monday, March 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

COVID-19 leads to widespread shutdowns across the country; travelers urged to return home

There has not been a case reported in the Valley yet

Non-essential services across the province are shutting down in the wake of COVID-19 as cases continue to grow. As of Monday morning Canada has 433 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The majority of those are in Ontario with 185 cases and in B.C. with 103. The country has seen four deaths due to the virus, all at a care home in B.C.

In Bella Coola local facilities such as recreation centres at Lobelco Hall, the Hagensborg Legion, and the local library are shutting down. An announcement regarding the possible closure of schools is expected this afternoon.

“We are expecting an announcement and developing the pandemic plan,” said SD49 Superintendant Steve Dishkin. “As noted earlier, we will continue to take our lead from the provincial health officials and follow their instructions.”

Bella Coola Heli Sports, which hosts guests from across the globe, has confirmed its last day of operation will be March 21.

“After consultation with fellow heli-skiing operators, public health officials, Bella Coola Heli Sport’s (BCHS) management, and our staff on the ground, BCHS has made the difficult, and frankly painful, decision to end operations for this season after the current group of guests depart on March 21st,” said CEO Beat Steiner on the company’s website. “This decision was not made lightly and is aligned with the Canadian Government’s issuance of a Level 3 Travel Advisory for the entire world, which recommends against all non-essential travel to Canada, and anyone arriving is asked to voluntarily self-quarantine for 14 days.”

British Columbians have been ordered to cancel all gatherings of more than 50 people. Citizens have been urged to stay home if possible, and municipalities were asked to close non-essential community hubs.

Trudeau had announced Monday that Canada would be closing its borders to all foreigners, except for Americans.

Trudeau said Global Affairs will offer up to $5,000 to Canadians stuck abroad. He urged them to come home before more borders are closed.

However, he acknowledged that with about 3 million Canadians abroad at any time, that may not be possible.

”It is just realistic to know that some of them will not be coming home in the coming weeks,” he said.

Trudeau also asked Canadians to remain isolated and lighten the load on health care professionals.

“Stay home. Don’t go out unless you absolutely have to. Things will get better,” Trudeau said.

Responding to questions about whether Canada will declare a state of emergency, he said Ottawa was looking to see if the country could get similar benefits without utilizing the Emergency Act.

Trudeau also announced Parks Canada will suspend service at its national parks and historic sites on Wednesday.

“Pretty much everything with a door will be closed.”

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