VICTORIA -- Public libraries on Vancouver Island will close until further notice Monday night in an effort to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The Greater Victoria Public Library (GVPL) chain says all 12 of its branches will close at 6 p.m. The Vancover Island Regional Library (VIRL) service is closing its branches at 8 p.m.

Both library operators say all loan periods will be extended by six weeks.

“In coming to this difficult decision, we paid particular attention to the province's prohibition on gatherings of more than 50 people, and the strong appeal for everyone to stay home during this critical time,” said VIRL executive director Rosemary Bonanno in a statement Monday afternoon.

“In this rapidly changing environment, we believe this is the best decision for our staff, customers, and larger public.”

The library services are asking the public not to return borrowed items through branch book drops during the library system closure.