The outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Canada and around the world continues to affect everything from our vacation plans to our coffee breaks. As doctors, businesses and governments work to stop the deadly outbreak, here is a list of new and notable safety measures, policy changes and cancellations across the country.
- On March 16, WestJet announced it would suspend all international and transborder flights, including those to the US. The suspension will begin March 22 at 11:59 p.m. MDT, and will last for 30 days. The airline is also reducing its domestic flights by 50 percent. If you need to change or cancel your flight, you can now do it with zero fees.
- If you booked with Air Canada on or before March 4, you can cancel your trip without paying a fee—providing it was scheduled to take place before the end of April. If you booked after March 4, you can cancel your trip up to two hours prior to your departure and have your fees waived.
- Air Transat will waive rebooking fees for all flights and travel packages purchased in March—so long as you change your travel dates, hotel, or destination 24 hours prior to your scheduled departure.
- After March 20, Porter will suspend all of its flights. The airline plans to resume service June 1. In the meantime, it has waived all of its fees for changes and cancellations.
Shops and restaurants
- On March 17, following its first COVID-19 death, Ontario announced a state of emergency, ordering the closure of all restaurants and bars; those that provide delivery services are allowed to continue to do so. Calgary has also issued a state of emergency, ordering restaurants to reduce their capacity by half.
- If your local coffee shop is still open, make sure to leave your reusable cups at home if you decide to venture out. Starbucks, Second Cup, McDonald’s and Tim Hortons have all temporarily stopped accepting reusable cups at their stores. Starbucks will also no longer give customers who stay in the store reusable ceramic mugs to sip from. Meanwhile, Tim Hortons will halt its two-million reusable cup giveaway, previously scheduled to take place in March as part of its popular Roll up the Rim to Win contest.
Is it safe to visit your friends and loved ones who are living in care centres? Usually, but take precautions, say nursing homes and experts. Some health professionals say loneliness is more dangerous to seniors than COVID-19, warning that social distancing can have long-term ramifications. Also be sure to follow common sense precautions, like washing your hands and not visiting while you’re sick, and check in to make sure the care centre is receiving visitors before you trek out. If an in-person visit isn’t possible, call to catch-up.
Community centres and gyms
- Across Canada, cities have announced library, pool, ice rink, and leisure centre restrictions and closures. Check with yours before you head down.
- The country’s largest gym chain, GoodLife, has temporarily shut down its locations, but will offer free at-home workouts to members. YMCA closures have also been announced across Canada, but it is up to individual member associations whether they chose to shut down. Check with yours before you head out.
- Virus precautions have hit sporting events, and their large crowds of fans, particularly hard. On March 7, the International Ice Hockey Federation cancelled the Women’s World Hockey Championship, citing coronavirus concerns. Nova Scotia was scheduled to host the showdown from March 31 – April 10. That same day, Arctic Winter Games, which brings together teams from around the circumpolar world, was also cancelled. It was set to be hosted in Whitehorse. The World Figure Skating Championship in Montreal was initially set to go on, but has since announced it too will be cancelled.
- Golf fans also received bad news in March. First, the PGA Tour cancelled the Players Championship on March 12. The next day, Augusta National Golf Club followed suit, postponing the Masters—hoping to still hold the event “at a later date.”
- Professional sports leagues, including the MLB, MLS, NHL, and NBA, have banded together to tackle coronavirus concerns. Initially, the leagues agreed to not cancel games or boot audiences from the stadiums. That changed after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for COVID-19 on March 11. The NBA has now suspended its season. Following the announcement, the Toronto Raptors, who had recently played against the Utah Jazz, entered a 14-day self-quarantine.
- While some hockey teams initially decided to play in empty arenas, by March 12 the NHL had announced it would also suspend its season. So too will the OHL. The MLS followed suit the same day, suspending its 2020 season for at least 30 days. The MLB also postponed its opening day, twice, to at least mid-May and wiped its spring training game roster.
- Items are flying off store shelves as Canadians stockpile everything from hand sanitizers and cleaning supplies to toilet paper, water, and bread. Some stores are also seeing a sharp rise in face mask sales as well as oat milk—a surprise bestseller with a long shelf life. Canada’s federal health minister has encouraged people to prepare for an emergency or quarantine a general precaution that holds even when there isn’t a global health threat.
- Starting the week of March 16, grocery stores across Canada announced “seniors hours,” during which they will open early to allow seniors, those with disabilities, and other health concerns, to shop away from the crowds.
The House of Commons announced a five-week shutdown on March 13. The move follows news that Sophie Grégoire Trudeau tested positive for COVID-19. In a statement, she urged Canadians to “Please share the facts and take your health seriously,” adding “I send you all my courage and warm thoughts (but only “get better” hugs from afar!).” The prime minister is planning to briefly recall Parliament to pass emergency legislation—date TDB.
- By March 17, most schools and daycares across Canada have closed, either indefinitely or for an extended March break. However, Manitoba has not scheduled closures until March 23, after its own March break, despite urging to shut down earlier. BC has not yet closed schools, but is expected to make its announcement on March 17.
- Many universities across Canada have closed their campuses and moved classes online. Others have ordered students to vacate their campus residences.
- The Junos pulled the plug on its 49th annual award show, in a March 12 announcement that acknowledged organizers were “devastated.” The news follows the cancellations of other awards shows, concerts, and festivals across North America.
- On March 16, Cineplex announced it would close all of its 165 theatres across Canada until at least April 2.
- Mirvish Productions, one of the largest live theatre companies in the country, closed its curtains through April 12.