COVID-19 Current Update and Government Response
April 2, 2020
As a destination marketing organization and business association representing approximately 1,000 members in tourism and related industries/activities, Tourism Vancouver is committed to providing our partners with reliable, accurate and timely information related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). We are obtaining the latest details from provincial, Canadian and global health authorities, and staying in close contact with related tourism organizations – both at home and abroad. We continue to participate in bi-weekly updates with Destination Canada and a range of additional travel-related organizations.
Canada COVID-19 App
Thrive Health, a B.C. based company, has launched a new app in partnership with the federal government. The free app provides information of COVID-19 how it spreads, prevention procedures, symptoms and the most up to date recommendations. You can download it on the Apple App Store or Google Play.
Vancouver Coastal Health – Water Stagnation Notice
For certain businesses, COVID-19 response measures will mean reduced building occupancy and water flow changes for extended periods of time. Members can find VCH’s notice regarding water stagnation risks and prevention procedures for facilities here. Additional resources will be posted to our Member COVID-19 Business Continuity Resources page.
The B.C. Restaurant and Food Services Association has been approached by the Ministry of Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness and the Ministry of Agriculture to assist their teams to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on the foodservice industry here in B.C. The BCRFA is asking all restaurants (both member and non-member) to complete their survey and share what impact this crisis has had on your business and what immediate resources as an operator you require to keep your business afloat.
Destination British Columbia Messaging Guidance
Destination BC has created a messaging guide that they will be updating weekly for industry partners to utilize. Help spread the word to prevent non-essential travel and keep our communities safe. You can find this week’s Messaging Guide in the link below as well as on DBC’s COVID-19 Update page: DBC Messaging Guide.
Member Impact Survey
We closed our member impact survey last Wednesday and we thank you for taking the time to complete it and provide feedback on how COVID-19 is affecting your business. Your insights highlighted below will help inform the work of the Metro Vancouver Response and Recovery Task Force as we work to advocate for more industry support from all levels of government.
- Majority of respondents report they expect to experience extreme (43%) and significant (26%) impact to their business in the next six months.
- Overwhelmingly, 89% of the respondents indicate they are experiencing postponements/cancellations from their clients/customers due to COVID-19.
- Short term months experienced the most postponement/cancellation due to COVID-19 are: March 2020 (27%); April 2020 (23%); May 2020 (18%).
- Top three markets that businesses are suffering from postponing/cancelling as a result of COVID-19 are: United States (19%); Local/Other BC (16%); Other Canada (14%).
- The actions most businesses have taken in response to COVID-19 (before social distancing and work from home was advised by the federal government) are mainly related to external/customer related changes: shifted sales and marketing strategies (16%); adjusted cancellation/refund policies (16%); changed/delayed hiring summer staff (14%); reduced/postponed sales and marketing spend (13%).
- As expected, respondents indicated both Q3 and Q4 will be significantly weaker than compared to the same period last year. However, members also indicated Q4’s performance’s performance to be an improvement over Q3 (moderately weaker in Q4 vs significantly weaker in Q3).
Update from the Tourism Industry Association of BC (TIABC)
Following our update on March 20, Walt Judas, President and CEO of TIABC and Chair of the Government Relations Working Group of our Metro Vancouver Tourism and Hospitality Response and Recovery Task Force has submitted to government a letter with several recommendations on how to assist the tourism industry through this crisis. You can read the full submission here.
Key recommendations include:
- Introduce an incremental supplement to the federal wage subsidy, at a level higher than the Government of Canada has proposed.
- Design a cost-offset program with a percentage offset for eligible fixed costs to assist businesses in meeting their obligations.
- Temporarily raise the exemption threshold for the BC Employer Health Tax (e.g. to $1,500,000) and reduce and/or eliminate the tax for the year 2020 for all eligible tourism and hospitality businesses.
- Immediately allow the purchase of meals for take-away or delivery to include the purchase of pre-packaged alcoholic beverages (i.e. sealed, unopened, original containers such as bottles or can of wine, beer, cider, spirits and pre-mixed ready-to-drink beverages.)
City of Vancouver
- Mayor Kennedy Stewart announced that Vancouver will declare a state of emergency, which will be formally ratified tomorrow. This is to ensure that they can enforce public health orders that direct, among other things, the closure of specific facilities, including private facilities.
- The Vancouver Economic Commission is working with multiple industry sectors to identify mechanisms for recovery, including potential tax measures.
- Businesses that can’t create a 1-2 metre distance between patrons should close.
- In reflection of the local State of Emergency, the City of Vancouver is adding further social distancing enforcement bylaw measures that:
- Allow the City to pursue fines for prosecution up to $50,000
- Enable bylaw officers to issue tickets for non-compliance (up to $1,000)
- Four bylaw officers are working each day to check the compliance of businesses.
- 600 businesses checked on Saturday, and 1,000 on Sunday
- Only 14 have been non-compliant.
- Ticketing is up to the bylaw officer’s discretion.
- The bylaw could be used to enforce social distancing, but not for people on the sidewalk or street. Tickets would be similar to parking tickets, but the focus will be on education (rather than ticketing).
- Individuals in non-compliance (e.g. gathering on the beach) can be ticketed, but the City is using enforcement as a last resort. Enforcement measures are being aligned with provincial health authorities.
- By issuing a declaration of a local State of Local Emergency, the City of Vancouver is going farther than other cities – but the City is trying to align measures with other municipalities.
- Staff is working to define exactly what ‘essential service’ means.
Immediately following announcements made by the federal government, Provincial Health Minister Adrian Dix and Provincial Medical Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provided specific updates for British Columbians. These included:
- B.C. has now declared a state of emergency province-wide to ensure federal, provincial and local resources are delivered in a joint, coordinated way. This will be in place until April 14th.
- Under a state of emergency, the province can acquire or use any land or personal property considered necessary to prevent, respond to or alleviate the effects the pandemic. The province also has the power to control or prohibit travel to or from any area of B.C., and to procure, fix prices for or ration food, clothing, fuel, equipment, medical supplies or other essential supplies.
- The state of emergency is in effect for two weeks but could be extended.
- No gatherings of more than 50 people are permitted in B.C. (This is a change over the previously announced restriction of 250 people, as a maximum number of event attendees.) Provincial Health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry indicated her expectation that bars and restaurants comply with this newly-imposed gathering restriction, though it’s unclear exactly how this new measure will be enforced at individual locations.
- Approximately 15,000 attendees of the Pacific Dental Conference in Vancouver on March 6 are being asked to self-isolate, as multiple COVID-19 cases have been linked to participants at that event.
- The provincial government has announced a $5 billion aid package to protect the health and safety of British Columbians, bring in immediate relief to the people who need it, and lay a foundation for recovery.
- $1.1 billion to support workers and families. There will be a one-time $1,000 tax-free benefit for British Columbians unable to work due to the crisis. Individuals must be eligible for child care benefit or employment insurance to receive the benefit, which will be supplementary to the benefits already announced by the federal government.
- $2.2 billion has been earmarked for businesses and economic recovery
- B.C. will establish a recovery task force, and has set aside $1.5 billion for the recovery phase.
- A dozen MLAs are in the legislature today to pass two pieces of legislation:
- Employment standards legislation to ensure no one loses their job because due to isolation or caring for a sick loved one.
- Financial supply bill to fund the aid package and programs.
- The province has declared grocery stores, pharmacies and banks as essential services, and is working with those businesses to ensure physical distancing protocols are met.
- The province is deferring payments on the Employer’s Health Tax, Carbon Tax, MRDT, and PST until the fall. The carbon tax increase and the introduction of the carbonated beverages tax will both be delayed as well.
- Bonnie Henry says that they are seeing escalating cases across the province and that no one is immune.
- Minister Adrian Dix foresees that the number of cases will continue to rise, and the next few weeks are going to be very important. He advises that we need to stay physically apart over the next few weeks and united to fight this pandemic.
- The BC government will be providing up to $500 a month, for three months, for renters that can't afford rent due to the COVID-19 crisis. This program will be delivered through BC Housing, more details to come in the following days.
- Premier Horgan has also announced a rent freeze for individuals – no word on rent for businesses at this time. He is asking banks and financial institutions to work with mortgage holders.
- In today’s update from Dr. Bonnie Henry, she said there are 42 new positive cases in BC, bringing the total to 659 cases in the province. The have caught up with the backlog of tests but Dr. Henry is not pleased with “any trajectory over 0”. She is encouraging gatherings that are only one or two people.
- B.C. is establishing a new Provincial Supply Chain Coordination Unit to co-ordinate goods and services distribution – taking a more active role in ensuring essential goods and services movement by land, air, marine and rail.
- The complete list of what is deemed to be ‘essential services’, which must remain open during the pandemic, is available on the government website.
- Municipal bylaw officers are being redeployed to support the enforcement of the provincial health officer's orders for business closures and gatherings, in line with offences under the Public Health Act.
- The need for a coordinated approach under the provincially-declared state of emergency was emphasized, so all local states of emergency are suspended – except in the City of Vancouver.
- This policy allows the provincial government to coordinate potential use of municipal facilities (such as community centres) for self-isolation, testing, medical care, warehousing and distribution.
- C.’s transmission rate has dropped from 24 per cent to 12 per cent due to physical distancing and travel restrictions.
- Henry has ordered today that farmers markets can only sell food, no other products.
- BC. is the first province in the country to release its modelling information on COVID-19. The Province’s health care system is equipped to handle current projects of cases.
- Henry said of the provincial modelling: It is not a prediction of where we may be or where we may go but to be used for planning purposes -- worst case scenario being modelled after Northern Italy.
- Dr. Bonnie Henry emphasized for the need for the public to stay the course to flatten the curve. She says that COVID-19 will have to be monitored until there is a vaccine.
- Minister Dix advised that there will be likely no changes to the current restrictions in place potentially until June, and even then, it could be pushed later. Henry believes that we will not be back to normal life until summer and to be prepared for a second wave of the virus in the Fall.
- Small businesses that had to close due to COVID-19 will have their power bills forgiven for three months (April to June 2020).
- BC Hydro will be providing a three-month credit to residential customers. The residential package is intended for individuals who have lost their job or can't work because of COVID-19. The bill credit does not have to be repaid. Customers will have until June 30th to apply for relief, with applications opening in early April.
With the number of COVID-19 cases continuing to rise, the Government of Canada has announced the following national measures designed to slow the spread of the virus:
- The Canada-U.S. border will now be closed to non-essential travel for an indefinite period.
- $27 billion will be provided in direct support to workers and businesses in addition to the $10 billion in credit announced for businesses.
- Small businesses will be eligible for a temporary three-month wage subsidy equivalent to 10% of wages (up to $1,375 per employee and $25,000 in total). This will apply to businesses eligible for the small business deduction, non-profits and charities.
- An Emergency Care Benefit is being established for people who don’t qualify for EI (part-time, freelancers, people who don’t have sick leave, for example). It provides money every two weeks for up to 15 weeks to people who are sick, in quarantine, who have to self-isolate, care for family member. The benefit amount is comparable to EI.
- Travellers are advised to self-isolate for 14 days when they enter Canada from an international destination, including the U.S.
- Non-residents can no longer enter Canada unless they are travelling for supply- or trade-related purposes – with some exceptions.
- Only four airports will accept international flights: Toronto Pearson (YYZ), Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL), Calgary International Airport (YYC) and Vancouver International Airport (YVR).
- Airlines are being directed to prevent any travellers who present virus symptoms from boarding planes.
- Government is reassuring citizens that supply chain lines are being kept open – both via air, and at border crossings – to prevent shortages of critical supplies (such as food and medicine).
- Canadians are advised to practice ‘social distancing’ to prevent further virus spread.
- These newly announced economic measures will take time for implementation and we expect to see benefits flow in the coming weeks. You can find the full list of announced measures on the Government of Canada’s website here.
- Government is working with Air Canada, WestJet, Air Transat, and SunWing to schedule flights bringing Canadians in foreign countries back to home soil.
- A new federal advertising campaign is being launched to educate the public on the importance of social distancing.
- The federal administration is reaching out to every university, college and polytechnic in Canada to augment existing numbers of critical supplies, such as masks and ventilators.
- the Government of Canada issued an order that Canada will deny entry to travellers who are not Canadian citizens or Permanent Residents arriving by air from the U.S. effective until 1 a.m. EST on April 21, 2020. Travellers from any country besides the U.S. will be denied entry to Canada until June 30, 2020. The Order in Council can change this date at any time, you can find the current orders here and here. Members are advised to regularly check the Government of Canada frequently for updates to the federal response as the situation continues to evolve.
- Prime Minister Trudeau proposed legislation that promised $82 billion in emergency aid for those struggling the COVID-19 pandemic. The emergency session of parliament to debate the legislation was suspended today as government is negotiating details of the legislation with opposition parties. The legislation would have given government sweeping powers to unilaterally spend, borrow and change taxation levels without the approval of Parliament.
- Trudeau says physical distancing rules will be in effect for several more weeks. Trudeau is concerned about Canadians arriving home from abroad and then stopping at grocery store or visiting parents before self-isolating. Trudeau directs Canadians to go home immediately or government will have to escalate enforcement.
- Parks Canada is restricting vehicles in national parks and national historic sites. Officials will suspend all motor vehicle access by visitors starting at 12:01 a.m. on March 25.
- The union representing Air Canada’s pilots said that 600 of its members will go on unpaid leave in the coming months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Prime Minister Trudeau announced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to support workers and help businesses keep their employees.
- This taxable benefit would provide $2,000 a month for up to four months for workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal is to have it up and running early April.
- CERB would cover Canadians who have lost their job, are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19, as well as working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children who are sick or at home because of school and daycare closures, wage earners, contract workers and self-employed individuals who would not otherwise be eligible for (EI).
- CERB would also cover workers who are still employed but are not receiving income because of disruptions to their work situation due to COVID-19.
- Applications will open on April 6. People who have already applied for EI do not have to reapply for CERB. Those receiving the wage subsidy cannot qualify for the CERB.
- More information on how to apply is now available on Canada.ca/coronavirus-cerb
- Trudeau also announced a support package for Canadian media to continue providing information to the public, more details to come.
- Government says they are assessing direct help for businesses. Canada is looking at models in Denmark and Germany and how they could implement those measures here.
- A $107 billion aid package has been formerly adopted by parliament, providing financial support for both businesses and individuals.
- Two Air Transat flights will be arriving in Montreal, carrying Canadians back from foreign locations. One flight is scheduled to arrive from El Salvador and the other from Guatemala.
- A 14-day quarantine is now mandatory for Canadians coming home from abroad.
- Government is implementing the Quarantine Act, which makes non-compliant citizens liable for fines of up to $750,000, and up to six months in prison.
- Kirsten Hillman, who played a leading role in Canada’s NAFTA negotiations, has been newly appointed as Canada’s ambassador to the U.S.
- Prime Minister Trudeau announced additional new measures to support small to medium-sized businesses dealing with the impacts of COVID-19.
- The Government of Canada will roll out a 75 percent wage subsidy for qualifying businesses, for up to 3 months, retroactive to March 15, 2020. This is an increase over the 10 percent wage subsidy announced last week. More details on eligibility criteria will be announced on Monday, March 30th.
- The new Canada Emergency Business Account will provide funding to eligible financial institutions to provide interest-free loans in the form of lines of credit of up to $40,000 to businesses with payrolls of less than $1 million.
- Up to $10,000 of a $40,000 loan is eligible for complete forgiveness. More details to come.
- Small businesses will be allowed to defer GST/HST payments until June. This will include custom duties owed for imported goods.
- All businesses and non-profit organizations seeing a minimum 30 percent drop in revenue due to COVID-19 will be eligible.
- The number of people a business employs will not determine its eligibility.
- For workers, the Government will cover up to 75 per cent of your salary on the first $58,700 that you earn, up to $847 a week.
- The wage subsidies will be retroactive to March 15, 2020.
- The prime minister encouraged businesses to top up their employees’ wages with the remaining 25 percent of their salaries.
- Trudeau also said that the program must operate on a basis of good faith and trust — and warned that there will be "serious consequences" for those who abuse it.
- Canada's Minister of Finance and Minister of Small Business will be addressing the public tomorrow with further details. Trudeau says background documents are being prepared.
- Federal Government Wage Subsidy - New Details
- A new portal will be created on the Canada Revenue Agency’s website in the coming weeks for applications to the subsidy program.
- Funds from this program will be made available in approximately 6 weeks.
- Government is also offering a separate 10 percent wage for businesses of up to 18 employees that cannot prove 30 per cent in loss of revenue but have still been affected by COVID-19.
Tourism Vancouver Visitor Centre temporarily closed until further notice
Starting Thursday, March 19th the Tourism Vancouver Visitor Centre would be temporarily closing until further notice to help reduce the spread. We will continue to monitor and adhere to recommendations put forward by Federal and Provincial health officials.
The Visitor Centre will continue to assist visitors via phone, email, and LiveChat on the Tourism Vancouver website.
If you have any questions regarding this closure or you would like to share information about your business with the Visitor Centre please email email@example.com
Checking for symptoms
If you or someone you know is experiencing possible COVID-19 symptoms, call the provincial health information hotline at 8-1-1, or contact the B.C Centre for Disease Control at 1-833-784-4397.
You can also direct them to the provincial government’s HealthLinkBC page which has steps to conduct an initial self-diagnosis: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/hwsxchk.
A new phone line, specifically to address COVID-19, has been established, effective today. That number is 1-888-COVID-19 (1-888-268-4319) or texts can be directed to 604-630-0300.
Information and Planning Sources
- Destination BC COVID-19 Update
- B.C. Centre for Disease Control virus update
- Government of Canada virus update
- Port of Vancouver Cruise Schedule
- World Health Organization virus update
- PCMA – WHO Issues COVID-19 Coronavirus Event Planning Guide
- MPI – Does Your Force Majeure Clause Cover the Coronavirus?
- Meeting Mentor – Could the Coronavirus Cause a Crisis for Your Event?
- Screening Measures at YVR
- John Hopkins University dashboard, specific country updates