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Victoria city council asking for ban on cruise ship visits to city amid coronavirus pandemic

Click to play video 'Victoria city council asking for ban on cruise ship visits during coronavirus pandemic' Victoria city council asking for ban on cruise ship visits during coronavirus pandemic
The City of Victoria wants its harbour authority to suspend all cruise travel to the city. At the same time, two major cruise lines are mooring their ships amid the coronavirus pandemic. Brad MacLeod reports – Mar 12, 2020

Victoria city council has passed a resolution on Thursday calling on the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority and Transport Canada to suspend cruise ship visits to the Port of Victoria until the risk of coronavirus transmission has subsided.

Coun. Ben Isitt submitted the resolution noting that “Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has advised that cruise ship visits to the Port of Victoria should be postponed to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.”

The resolution calls on the federal government, which operates the Port of Victoria, to “suspend authorization of international cruise ship visits to the Port of Victoria.”

“Dr Bonnie Henry has given valuable advice,“ Isitt said in support of the ban.

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The city of Victoria does not have the authority to ban cruise ships. The federal government has the authority to restrict cruise ship travel.

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“It doesn’t speak to the spirit of partnership with greater Victoria’s Harbour Authority and Destination Greater Victoria,“ Victoria mayor Lisa Helps said.

“Based on what Dr. Henry has asked is a reasonable thing to do.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus concerns prompt Princess Cruises to suspend operations for 2 months

In a release, Isitt details a push to compensate workers and businesses that will be hit hard by a potential closure of the cruise ship industry.

The calls come as Princess Cruises announced it would suspend voyages of all its 18 ships for two months.

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The company has five planned stops in Victoria over the next two months, including the city’s first planned cruise ship arrival on April 3.

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Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has been advising British Columbians to not get on a cruise, even though the federal government has not yet restricted cruise travel.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Cruise season should be delayed, says B.C.’s top doctor

“Those are things that people need to make choices for themselves, being aware that the government of Canada website does have health advisories. Some of them, they’re quite broad right now,” Henry said.

“Nobody should be going on a cruise, in my opinion, right now.”

The Princess Cruise decision comes following a coronavirus outbreak on the Diamond Princess and the Grand Princess, which saw more than 200 Canadians evacuated to Ontario for two weeks of quarantine.

The Victoria cruise ship terminal welcomes 300 vessels annually with over 800,000 passengers and a $140-million impact on the local economy.

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The industry employees around 800 direct and indirect jobs in Victoria.

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Ian Robertson, CEO of Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, said he shares Henry’s concerns.

“Obviously, the health and safety of everyone is our top concern,” he said.

“We are working with Transport Canada and Health Canada. There is no question we will comply with any direction we receive from them.”

–with files from Brad MacLeod