BY: IRELYNE LAVERY & SARAH TAHER
Last week Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a series of important announcements in regards to COVID-19 during his daily press conference briefings to the country.
Tues. Mar 24
On Tuesday, Trudeau said that the Coronavirus is the “biggest public health crisis our country has ever seen.”
Trudeau also spoke on the flights from countries like Morocco, Ukraine, El Salvador, and Spain that will be transporting Canadians home in the coming days. Up until this point 1 million Canadians have travelled home, according to Trudeau.
Once Canadians arrive home they are told to stay inside and quarantine. “This is not a suggestion,” Trudeau said. He also said that “more stringent measures” will be put into place if citizens do not practice self-quarantining.
The length of restrictions like quarantine and self-isolation for the rest of Canadians is up in the air. The Federal government does not currently know how long these measures will be enacted.
Trudeau thanked Canadians working in health care, custodial services, and pharmaceuticals during this time before he took questions. Journalists who were in Ottawa — present for the press conference — were able to ask questions in person, while others phoned in to speak with the Prime Minister.
The first question was in regards to the current demand for unemployment cheques by Canadians. Trudeau acknowledged that he is aware that families are unsure of how they are going to buy groceries or pay rent but said that the government is working to “flow money to people very rapidly.”
He also said that the measures that have been implemented to support EI in Canada have been “a huge challenge for the government.”
The delay in test results was also brought up during the briefing by a journalist who was present at the Prime Minister’s home. Lab capabilities have been enhanced during this pandemic. Trudeau said that tests not only provide Canadians with “peace of mind” but are also an “essential measure to control the transmission of the virus.”
When asked about politics and the pandemic, Trudeau said that the Federal government is working to “keep in place our democratic institutions.” He also said that parliament and opposition parties have an important role to play.
Trudeau was also asked about the Federal Government Emergencies Act. He said that most of the countries premiers did not think that this was currently necessary and that this Act would require “powers of coordination” and “rearranging the supply chains.”
Although the Federal Government Emergencies Act is not currently in place, Trudeau frequently said that “all options are on the table” and that “things are changing very, very rapidly,” over the course of the press conference.
When asked about the focus in the United States on the economy over the virus, Trudeau said that the Canadian government will continue to ensure the flow of essentials like food, medicine, and industrial supplies.
Recently, the World Health Organization has said that the United States could be an epicentre for the virus. On this, Trudeau said that the Federal government is “braced for a broad range of scenarios.”
Wed. Mar 25
On Wednesday, Trudeau announced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. This benefit will replace the Emergency Care Benefit and the Emergency Support Benefit, that were both previously announced.
The Canada Emergency Response Benefit will provide eligible Canadians with $2,000 a month for four months. “Hopefully the system will be up and running by April 6th,” Trudeau said. Money is expected to start rolling out 10 days after applying.
This benefit is eligible to Canadians who have experienced job loss, are currently in quarantine, are taking care of a loved one, or have a job but are not receiving a salary.
“Our country is facing the greatest health care crisis in its history,” Trudeau said on Wednesday along with, “Help is on the way.”
Trudeau also said that the government of Canada is also continuing to speed up the testing process and that 10,000 Canadians a day are being tested.
Wednesday also marked Trudeau’s second-to-last day in quarantine after his wife, Sophie was diagnosed with the Coronavirus. He said that “Sophie feels much better,” and that he and his children have no symptoms.
Thurs. Mar 26
During Thursday’s daily briefing Trudeau informed Canadians that the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit has been “adopted by parliament.”
He also spoke about a “text scam” that has been circulating that could seem as though it is coming from the government.
Kirsten Hillman was also appointed Ambassador to the United States of America by the Prime Minister. The United States was brought up a second time when a journalist asked about President Donald Trump’s proposal to station military 30 kilometers from the US-Canada border. Trudeau spoke on the fact that the US-Canada border is the longest non-militarized border. On this he said, “It is very much in both of our interests to keep it that way.”
Thursday was also the day that the Federal government enacted the Quarantine Act. This makes self-isolation mandatory for all travellers returning home to Canada for 14 days. Failure to comply with this act will result in “serious fines and even jail time,” according to Trudeau.
He also said that quarantining after returning from abroad has been a “requirement from the very beginning,” and that Public Health will be following up on “many, many cases.”
The Canada Emergency Business Account was also announced on Thursdays, which will provide small and medium sized businesses with a loan of up to $40 thousand. It will also be interest free for one year and 10 per cent of the loan could be forgivable to eligible businesses.
Businesses will also be supported through the wage subsidy that Trudeau announced is being increased to 75 per cent. Originally, eligible businesses were going to be given only 10 per cent of wages.
Trudeau said on Thursday, that small and medium size businesses are the “backbone of our country.” He also differed all GST, HST, and taxes on imports until June and spoke on Service Canada closures.
A journalist brought up that Service Canada closures could negatively effect the elderly and indigenous communities. To this Trudeau pushed Canada to use the online equivalent but also said that special considerations will be made for the most vulnerable.
He was also pressed by journalists on airport testing and the incarcerated population. Trudeau said that the government has been working with Corrections Canada and “recognizes that the incarcerated population is at a greater risk.”
Thursday also marked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s 14th day of self-isolation but he will remain in quarantine as recommended by his doctor.