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B.C. Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman, seen in a Dec. 5, 2018, file photo, said it was difficult to ensure physical distancing among visitors to the parks.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

British Columbia is closing its provincial parks to keep people safe during the COVID-19 crisis and it is providing help for families and children with special needs to cope with the added stress from the disease.

The government says the immediate closure of the parks responds to directives to stay close to home and maintain physical distancing during the pandemic.

George Heyman, the minister of environment and climate change strategy, says it was difficult to ensure physical distancing among visitors to the parks.

A ban on overnight camping had already been imposed and BC Parks says it has now been extended to May 31.

The government has also announced an emergency fund for caregivers of special needs children, providing $225 per month to eligible families until the end of June.

The funding can be used for services ranging from meal preparation and grocery shopping to counselling services or payment to a relative providing temporary care for a child with special needs.

Katrine Conroy, the minister of children and family development, says families are facing uncertainty during the pandemic and the government is offering more flexibility in its support programs.

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