Coronavirus: Manitoba truckers describe what it’s like to haul during a pandemic

The United States border crossing is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Truck drivers are playing a critical role in keeping the supply chain rolling amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but some drivers say it’s difficult to find the necessities they need.

Since safety measures were put in place to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, many restaurants have closed.

While some fast-food locations remain open, many are only serving customers at drive-thrus, which semi-trucks can’t go through because of their size.

Several truck stops are also closed, according to drivers Global News caught up with at a Manitoba truck stop.

Frank Friesen, a truck driver who hauls dry goods across North America, said he makes sure to pack a cooler with food and water before hitting the road.

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“With food items, it’s junk food or other than that you don’t have many choices anymore,” Friesen said. “Rest areas are all closed, so we have to fend for ourselves.”

Friesen noted how trucking is essential to keeping the economy going, and although it comes with its risks, he’s doing his best to slow the spread of the virus.

“It is a scary thing,” he said. “You’re in different states and provinces so you try not to get into close contact with people. I keep hand sanitizer and stuff like that in my truck and just try and keep healthy.”

Click to play video: 'How will the U.S. – Canada border closure affect trade'
How will the U.S. – Canada border closure affect trade

The Canada-U.S. border is closed to non-essential travel, but truckers are still allowed to cross and not required to self-isolate.

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Trucker David Henry said he’s been fortunate as he’s been able to find restaurants that are open at the counter, but he’s getting mixed responses from the public.

“It’s like when we walk inside they’re almost afraid — like we’re the boogeyman.”

“And then other places, they’re like, ‘We want to do everything we can to keep you moving, thank you for what you’re doing,'” Henry said.

Hayden Iversen, another trucker who drives across North America, said she’s been able to feed herself but it’s much harder to find an open business while driving through rural towns.

“Finding bathrooms tends to be difficult sometimes but other than that it’s been okay,” she said.

“I’m usually able to find a Walmart or something like that in order to buy my food and I store it in the truck and just tuck in for the long haul.”

Click to play video: '‘Drivers are really struggling’: Truckers deal with new challenges posed by COVID-19 crisis'
‘Drivers are really struggling’: Truckers deal with new challenges posed by COVID-19 crisis

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

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Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

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. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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

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