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VANCOUVER — B.C. is suspending classes for students from kindergarten to Grade 12 and working on a plan to help businesses and workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Education Minister Rob Fleming says his department is working with school districts and teachers to figure out a plan to continue learning, but not in classrooms.

The suspension of classes will not affect students who are scheduled to graduate this spring.

Fleming says all students who are on course to graduate from Grade 12, and those progressing to the next grade, will do so.

Meanwhile, Premier John Horgan is promising a provincial plan in the next day or two to help companies and workers deal with COVID-19.

He says the province is waiting for the final details of the federal government’s plan before it releases its approach.

But Horgan says there will be financial support for businesses and changes to the Employment Standards Act to prevent workers from being laid off if they are required to stay at home to self-isolate.

“We want to make sure that no one loses their job by doing the right thing,” he told a news conference in Victoria.

“Today we are talking about the plan and the path forward. The details of that really have to wait until we see what the federal government has done so that we can complement that work.”  

Horgan also pressed the federal government to ensure it changes employment insurance regulations to help workers.

“This is a crisis situation, there’s no making that sound any better,” he added.

The number of businesses affected by the pandemic continued to mount on Tuesday.

LNG Canada is cutting its workforce in half over the next several days on the construction of a new plant in Kitimat, B.C., to help local communities deal with COVID-19.

The company says most of the cuts are being made by reducing the number of workers flying in on rotation but, if necessary, staff could be cut to levels required only to maintain site security and environmental controls.

LNG Canada is a consortium of five global energy companies, including PetroChina and South Korea’s KOGAS, building a $40-billion liquefied natural gas production and export facility.

The region where the plant is located in northwestern B.C. has not had any confirmed cases of COVID-19.

In a statement on its website, LNG Canada says it is taking the step in an abundance of caution to protect the communities of Kitimat, Terrace and surrounding First Nations.

It says travel by staff and contractors to other countries, including China, South Korea and Italy, has been restricted for the past month.

LNG Canada is building an export facility in Kitimat capable of processing liquefied natural gas from B.C.’s northeast and shipping it to customers in Asia.

“We assure you that together we are taking prudent measures to help reduce the spread of the virus,” the company says on its website.

British Columbia reported 103 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Monday, including four deaths.

One of the most popular ski resorts in North America is also shutting down in the face of COVID-19 restrictions against large groups and close contact.

Vail Resorts, the U.S. owner of several ski hills including Whistler-Blackcomb, says the B.C. resort and all its properties are closing for the season, effective immediately.

The announcement came just days after Whistler announced a one-week shutdown to assess the situation.

More than half a dozen other ski resorts across B.C. have also announced closures.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 17, 2020

The Canadian Press

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