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May 3, 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 Canadian government in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, announced three financial assistance measures to support families, research and medical teleconsultations.

Additional $300 per child in May

As the majority of Canadians are facing financial difficulties due to the pandemic, Prime Minister Trudeau announced an additional $300 per child under the Canada Child Benefit in May.

“This assistance could be used for online tutoring or groceries,” Mr. Trudeau said.

Speeding up research

The prime minister said that the current context requires new and innovative ways of doing things, and announced $175 M in direct assistance to a Canadian business that develops a “very promising” antibody used to manufacture a medication to treat COVID-19.

Federal subsidies will allow the Vancouver firm AbCellera, in particular, to start clinical trials as soon as July.

Mental health teleconsultations

The prime minister announced a $240-M investment in healthcare to bring a new mental health platform online.

Mr. Trudeau said that if we can order meals and have live video chats with our family and friends, we can use new technology to stay healthy. While practising social distancing, this is the perfect time to opt for medical teleconsultations.

“This way, a wider range of virtual care can be provided when there’s no need to see a doctor in person. Through online care, we can reach more people and take pressure off our healthcare system.”

The budget will be shared among the provinces.   

Screening tests suspended

Health Canada has suspended its authorization of screening tests developed by the Ontario company Spartan Bioscience, which Québec and Ontario were getting ready to use. These rapid screening tests are carried out using a cube-shaped portable device.

Health Canada had approved these tests conditionally, in the current health emergency. The company must perfect its test before it can be approved.

COVID-19 Supply Council

Mr. Trudeau approved the creation of a COVID-19 Supply Council mandated to find innovative solutions to ensure that necessary equipment and material is always available in sufficient quantities, such as masks and hand sanitizer.

He reiterated that since the start of the pandemic the government has done everything to guarantee a supply of protective equipment from around the world and to promote the manufacturing of this equipment in Canada.

Canada’s prime minister stressed that as some provinces prepare to restart their economy, businesses will be in need of protective equipment. He pointed out that masks will have to be worn when physical distancing cannot be respected and, therefore, more and more people will be wearing them.

Wuhan virus

Questioned about the U.S. government’s supposed proof that the coronavirus came from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, where the pandemic started, Prime Minister Trudeau refused to comment.

“It will be interesting to know how and where this virus started, but right now, our priority is to focus on keeping Canadians healthy,” Mr. Trudeau said.

Canada continues to work with its allies around the world on this subject. Mr. Trudeau gave his assurance that all of these questions will be answered in the months ahead.

Hard on children

As is his custom, the prime minister spoke directly to children, and reiterated that he knows how hard this situation is for them.

“The good news is that we’ve made a lot of progress in the last week. These are tough times, but it’s really important that you help out at home, that you help your parents and that you stay positive, because we are going to get through this. If everyone continues to do their part, we’ll get there.”