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Service Canada is shutting down all locations across the country

All physical Service Canada centres across the country are shutting down, according to the federal government, in an effort to slow down the spread of COVID-19.

Canada's Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Ahmed Hussen, announced the move Thursday night, stressing that unemployed workers would still be able to apply for EI benefits online.

"COVID-19 has created unprecedented challenges across our country. Service Canada employees, along with many other public servants, have been working around the clock to deliver essential supports to Canadians during this difficult time," said Hussen in a statement posted to the government's website. "That work continues."

The minister explained that closing physical service centres is necessary to support Canada's fight against the global coronavirus pandemic outbreak.

"During a time when we are asking most Canadians to stay home, we need to make sure our service delivery model follows the best public health advice, while also meeting the needs of Canadians," he said.

"At this time, we will be closing in person Service Canada Centres. Let me be clear: Canadians will still be able to access their benefits. The best way to apply remains online."

The Canadian Press reports that offices are already starting to close as Service Canada employees turn their attention to serving customers by phone.

"Our Citizen Service Officers will be providing personalized service support for EI and pensions applications, in addition to the services provided over the phone by our call centres," reads the government release.

"This will allow more Canadians to get the support they need, while better protecting both them and our staff."

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