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Service Canada offices to shutter for in-person services over COVID-19 concerns

Last Updated Mar 26, 2020 at 8:35 pm MDT

People line up at a Service Canada office in Montreal on Thursday, March 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

OTTAWA — The federal government is shutting down the network of in-person Service Canada centres over COVID-19 concerns.

Some of the offices, such as one tucked inside Ottawa’s city hall, have already started to close across the country as cases have increased and workers were needed elsewhere or felt uncomfortable about going in due to the pandemic.

The Liberals say the move, announced late tonight, shouldn’t affect most unemployed workers who seek EI benefits since the majority of applications are done online.

READ MORE: 67 new cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, provincial total at 486

The minister in charge of Service Canada says officials will make alternative arrangements for those who still need in-person services.

In a statement, Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen says the government’s service delivery model should reflect the fact that Canadians are being asked to stay home over public health concerns.

The unions representing workers at the centres, who had urged the government to better protect front-line staff, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.