West Edmonton Mall says it had to ‘temporarily lay off many of our staff’

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After the province banned gatherings of more than 50 people and West Edmonton Mall shut down many of its attractions, the shopping centre confirmed it laid off “many” of its staff.

A mall spokesperson would not provide the exact number of employees affected.

“Due to the current unprecedented circumstances and the state of emergency from the COVID-19 pandemic, West Edmonton Mall Property Inc. has had to make the very difficult decision to temporarily lay off many of our staff,” WEM project manager Kirstie Purdy said.

“This is a direct consequence of the drastic business impact and the challenging market conditions created from this growing pandemic.”

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On Tuesday, the government of Alberta declared a public health emergency and banned gatherings of more than 50 people.

The province also shut down bars, nightclubs, casinos, bingo halls, theatres, children’s play centres, recreation centres and arenas, science centres, museums and art galleries, community centres, fitness facilities, and entertainment facilities like movie theatres.

The Edmonton mall said the new restrictions put even more pressure on “an already difficult situation.”

“We continue to support our employees in any way we can as we impose this temporary suspension plan West Edmonton Mall Property Inc. will continue Sun Life medical benefits coverage for currently enrolled employees and will cover all premiums associated with such benefits,” Purdy said.

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WEM is hoping to have employees back to work “as soon as the environment stabilizes and allows for it.”

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“Safety and security of our staff and guests remains as our top priority,” she said.

On March 16, the mall said it was closing the World Waterpark, Galaxyland, Marine Life, Crystal Labyrinth Mirror Maze and Ed’s Bowling.

The closures were described as preventative in nature. The mall stressed there have been no reported incidents of COVID-19 at the shopping centre.

As of March 16, the mall itself, Fantasyland Hotel and the West Edmonton Inn were operating on regularly scheduled hours “with heightened risk-mitigation procedures in place.”

WEM noted that some stores inside the mall have opted to reduce their hours.

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials say the risk is low for Canadians but warn this could change quickly. They caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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