VICTORIA -- Hundreds of employees of the Fairmont Empress Hotel and Hotel Grand Pacific are out of work as the biggest hotels on Victoria's Inner Harbour close their doors due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Empress shut its doors Tuesday, leaving approximately 500 employees temporarily out of work. The Grand Pacific is planning to close Thursday, its 170 staff laid off until at least May.

"To do our part in halting the spread of this virus, we have made the difficult decision to suspend hotel operations at Fairmont Empress and temporarily close," Fairmont Empress spokesperson Tracey Drake told CTV News on Tuesday.

"The suspension of hotel operations includes all guest services including overnight stays, Willow Stream Spa, health club and pool, as well as all food and beverage offerings including Q at the Empress Restaurant, Q Bar, Tea at the Empress, retail stores and event spaces."

The general manager of the Hotel Grand Pacific says the hotel, with more than 300 guest rooms, has struggled with single-digit occupancy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Empress Hotel's operator says it will re-evaluate the hotel's closure in the coming weeks while a "very small group of employees" remain on site.

The Grand Pacific says it will reassess its closure at the end of April for a possible reopening in May, at the earliest.

This is a developing story and will be updated throughout the day.