April 18, 2020 – Federal government update on the COVID-19 pandemic
In the exceptional circumstances of the current health state of emergency, here is an update on recent decisions and actions by the federal government in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, stressed that we are living through an unprecedented public health emergency and stated, “Even if things are getting better with time, we cannot let our guard down and lose all that we’ve accomplished.”
Mr. Trudeau also stressed that since the situation is different in each province and region, the measures pertaining to isolation as well as social and economic activities are not the same everywhere.
He reiterated that it is important to “stay home to save lives.”
Extended border closure
Prime Minister Trudeau announced that the agreement with the United States to close the border has been extended for another 30 days. This is to ensure the health and safety of the population on both sides of the border while maintaining the free flow of essential goods and services as well as the supply of medical equipment and food. The land border has been closed since March 21.
House of Commons
Mr. Trudeau decided that, in the current context, it would be inappropriate for the 338 members of the House of Commons to sit in Parliament on Monday, as originally planned when isolation measures were first imposed. Instead, he suggested to the opposition leaders that virtual meetings be held once a week.
“We made proposals to make sure our democracy stays healthy while keeping people safe. We hope to come to an agreement with the opposition parties to avoid having us all meet Monday morning.”
The prime minister of Canada said that several proposals are being prepared with regard to commercial rents, in collaboration with the provinces, since this is a provincial matter.
Mr. Trudeau acknowledged that fixed expenses are a difficult challenge for businesses in the context of the pandemic.
Mr. Trudeau mentioned that maintaining the food production chain “is a priority,” but first and foremost the spread of COVID-19 must be stopped. “The health and safety of workers is crucial in the current context.”
The prime minister acknowledged that preventive screening is essential before the isolation measures can be loosened. “We are working to make sure there is enough equipment, which is the case at the moment, but we have to keep up the pace,” he said.
In the United States, authorities say that the capacity to conduct 500,000 tests a day is required before phasing out general isolation. Prime Minister Trudeau did not provide the number of COVID-19 tests that would be necessary, but confirmed that the current capacity must be increased.
Personal protective equipment
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that two planes transporting personal protective equipment arrived yesterday and that more will be arriving next week. Masks produced by a Toronto manufacturing company will be available soon.
Support to Indigenous-owned businesses
Mr. Trudeau added $306 M in government assistance for Indigenous-owned businesses through Indigenous financial institutions and the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association.
“It will help thousands of businesses until the situation improves. This is only a first step, and there will be more measures to come to help Indigenous businesses,” Mr. Trudeau said.