COVID-19 update for Canada, March 23: Businesses could face $50,000 fines, only 12 B.C. MLAs to sit today

Black Press Media is updating this file throughout the day

Black Press Media is updating this file throughout the day. This update was created at 6:45 a.m., Monday, March 23.

Only 12 B.C. MLAs will site today for urgent legislation

Just 12 members of the British Columbia legislature will be present this afternoon as the sitting resumes in Victoria to consider what the New Democrat government says is urgent legislation related to COVID-19.

NDP, Green and Liberal representatives approved plans for the scaled-down sitting to meet social distancing requirements, although the proceedings will be broadcast online and via legislative TV.

The handful of politicians are expected to enact amendments to the Employment Standards Act, intended to provide greater protection for B.C. workers whose jobs are at risk because of the global pandemic.

B.C. declared a state of emergency last week to support its response to COVID-19.

Some Canadians will be stranded abroad, Canada concedes

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne says it won’t be possible for the government to repatriate all Canadians stranded abroad due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an interview with CBC’s The Current this morning, Champagne says the challenges the government faces are unprecedented with airport and airspace closures, border closures and the fact some countries have imposed martial law.

He says Global Affairs Canada has had 10,000 calls and 14,000 emails in the last 48 hours.

Earlier today, the minister said on Twitter that the government has arranged for three new flights to bring stranded Canadians home from Peru.

Vancouver: $50,000 fines for businesses violating declaration

Anyone who ignores Vancouver’s state of local emergency declaration could receive a ticket and stiff fine if city council approves a recommendation supporting enhanced powers to enforce it.

Council votes later today on the recommendation that would immediately impose fines of up to $50,000 on businesses violating the declaration.

If approved, bylaw officers would also have the power to hand out $1,000 tickets to anyone not honouring social distancing requirements to stay at least one metre apart.

Vancouver declared a state of local emergency last week and did not include violation penalties in anticipation of compliance, but Mayor Kennedy Stewart says that didn’t happen, prompting the call for stricter measures.

Peru: Arrangements made to repatriate Canadians

Ottawa says arrangements have been made to help repatriate Canadians stranded in Peru due to COVID-19 related restrictions.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne says in a tweet that the government has secured authorizations for Air Canada to operate three flights from that country this week.

The minister is urging Canadians in Peru to register with the federal government so they can receive further information.

Champagne said Saturday that negotiations are also underway with other countries that have closed airspace and borders to try to get Canadians out.

Blood supply threatened by coronavirus

Canadian Blood Services says it’s concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a spike in cancellations for blood donation appointments in several cities.

The organization, which is responsible for the national blood system outside Quebec, says it’s safe for those who aren’t ill to give blood.

The agency says those who have been told by public health authorities to self-quarantine, or who live with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, are also barred from donating for 14 days after their last contact with the infected, or potentially infected, person.

It says Canada’s blood inventory is currently strong but the cancellations are worrying given that shortages have been reported in other countries affected by the novel coronavirus.

Air Transat: 70% of staff laid off

Transat AT Inc. says it has temporarily laid off about 70 per cent of its workforce in Canada, about 3,600 people.

The decision comes as non-essential travel around the world comes to a standstill as governments close borders in an effort to slow the COVID-19 pandemic.

Transat says some of these layoffs are effective immediately, while others will take effect following advance notice of up to one month.

The layoffs include all flight crew personnel.

The company says the final Air Transat flight prior to the full suspension of its operations is scheduled for April 1.

Transat says operations are being stopped gradually in order to enable it to repatriate as many of its customers as possible to their home countries.

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