Provincial Labour Minister Harry Bains is working from home, self-isolating after returning to Surrey from a trip to India.
The Surrey-Newton MLA and his wife left for India before Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer urged the public on March 12 to refrain from all non-essential international travel.
“When we broke for the spring session, and I think that would be the 8th or 9th of March, and my wife went for some family reunification in India, she said, you know, you have a few days why don’t you join us?” Bains told the Now-Leader. “So I went there, and as soon as I got there things got so bad and I was ordered to come back. And along with that comes self-isolation 14 days, right, and I came back last Monday so I’ve got another five or six days to go still.”
He said he left Canada on March 8 and came back March 16. His wife also made it back safely.
On March 25 India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a total lockdown on the country in an attempt to thwart the virus from spreading among its population of 1.3 billion people. People there are banned from venturing outside their homes.
It’s believed thousands of people from Surrey are stranded in India as a result.
“I’m hearing that as well,” Bains said. “We’re lobbying the federal government to find ways to work with other countries because many of them have actually locked down their airspace as well.”
So now, he’s working from home, with his cellphone and iPad.
“That’s what I do, sitting in my room.”
”Nothing is normal anymore,” Bains said. “We’re working in unprecedented times, as you know.
“Questions that come my way are not the normal questions. These questions never came up before,” Bains said. “We talk about hey, you know, close the restaurant except the drive-thru or home delivery. And I have questions from truckers – ‘I can’t use drive-thru’ – and you know, they have a point, and they drive a long distance; they are a key part of our food supply chain, they drive long distance, and they need washroom facilities.
“Many of the facilities are closing down so there are all kinds of challenges in my ministry, working with the provincial health office and WorkSafe, trying to put together, and identifying the sectors that we need to provide some guidance to. We need to work safely and also keep from spreading the virus.”
Bains said, on behalf of the provincial government, that he wants to thank all workers who are providing essential service, “starting with the first responders, the hospital care and the healthcare workers, the transportation people driving taxis and trucks and buses, cleaners who are providing cleaning services at hospitals and other places, I mean, you name it.
“I just want to say your work is appreciated and we can’t thank you enough,” Bains said. “You are our heroes right now, and keep up the good work. We have your back.”
Meantime, Surrey City Councillor Laurie Guerra has returned home from her trip to Mexico and told the Now-Leader on Wednesday that she is also self-isolating.
Asked if she had any difficulties getting back, she said “none at all.”