I know it has been a stressful time for many residents who are concerned about their health and how the spread of COVID-19 will impact the health of their loved ones.
In recent weeks during my travels I have been alarmed by the lack of enhanced screening at our airports. I am also deeply concerned about reports that Canadians returning from international travel are still not being properly screened at airports or advised to self-isolate for 14 days.
The federal government has now announced new border measures including banning entry of foreign nationals by air travel from all countries except for the United States and preventing all passengers with symptoms, including Canadians, from boarding a plane to Canada.
In addition, only the Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver and Montreal airports will receive international flights starting March 18. As of right now, domestic flights, as well as flights from the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean are not affected and can still land at their regular route.
Over the weekend the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported in Northern British Columbia. While the risk to Canadians remains low, it is more important than ever that we continue to take extra precautions including washing your hands often for at least 20 seconds, avoiding touching your face, coughing or sneezing into a tissue or your sleeve, and staying home if you are sick.
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, also advises that we avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada, avoid large gatherings or crowds, stay a distance of two arms length from others, and work from home if you can. Any Canadian who has travelled outside the country must self-isolate for 14 days upon their return.
Symptoms for COVID-19 include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. If you develop these symptoms, please call your health care provider or HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 and follow any instructions given on self-isolation. Northern Health has also set up a COVID-19 Online Clinic and Information Line for northern residents at 1-844-645-7811 and the Public Health Agency of Canada has set up a Coronavirus Hotline at 1-833-784-4397.
To help prevent the spread of the virus, my staff and I have decided to temporarily suspend all walk in visits and in person meetings at the constituency offices. Our services will remain available, however at this time we ask that you phone or send an email. Help with passport applications will be done through the office mailboxes.
Here is contact information for the offices:
Fort St. John: 250-787-1192 and Bob.Zimmer.C1A@parl.gc.ca or Bob.Zimmer.C1B@parl.gc.ca
Dawson Creek: 250-719-6848 and Bob.Zimmer.A3@parl.gc.ca
Prince George: 250-561-7982 and Bob.Zimmer.C1@parl.gc.ca
During this time of uncertainty, I urge everyone to remain calm, continue to follow the advice of our public health officials, and check in on your neighbours and loved ones – at a safe distance – to make sure everyone has what they need to feel and stay safe.
Let’s all do our part to flatten the curve.
Bob Zimmer is Member of Parliament for Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies.