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Coronavirus pandemic leaves Churchill’s tourism sector ‘vulnerable’: mayor

An aerial view of the rail line and Via station is shown in Churchill, Man., on July 4, 2018.
An aerial view of the rail line and Via station is shown in Churchill, Man., on July 4, 2018. John Woods/The Canadian Press

Churchill is faring pretty well amid the coronavirus pandemic, but there are concerns for the community’s tourism sector, according to the mayor.

“We’re a tourism destination, so there’s no doubt there’s going to be a real impact on our community and Manitoba’s economy,” Michael Spence said Wednesday.

“Our sector is vulnerable and we’re concerned about the upcoming beluga season and also the bear season.”

READ MORE: ‘We’re devastated’ — COVID-19 dries up tourism industry, thousands laid off in mountain towns

Spence says the town is having ongoing discussions with partners in the industry and the government, and expects to see government support programs for the sector soon.

Despite concerns for the local economy, Spence says the province’s decision to restrict travel north of the 53rd parallel was a necessary measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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READ MORE: Northern travel restrictions due to coronavirus frustrating but necessary, The Pas, Man. mayor says

“I think we need to flatten the curve by covering every aspect of it and travel is an important part of it,” Spence said.

“The issue of people coming in and out of the community, we’re in discussions in terms of trying to rectify that as well. It’s not as easy as some people think it is, but we’re working on that.”

READ MORE: First train rolls into Churchill after a long anticipated wait

Spence adds the town is currently exploring the idea of an “essential travel committee” that would be in a position to administer travel requests, but didn’t elaborate for what circumstances that might be required or how soon such a plan could be implemented.

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“We basically, as a community, have fared very well up to this point. We’re doing an excellent job of following the health recommendations, so we’re OK.”

Churchill’s response to COVID-19
Churchill’s response to COVID-19