Updated at 12:30 p.m. (EDT): Canada is expanding eligibility for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to batter Canada’s economy,
The CERB will now include people who are earning up to $1,000 per month, seasonal workers facing no jobs, and people who have run out of employment insurance (EI) since January 1.
As of Monday, nearly 6 million Canadians had applied for CERB, a federal aid program for people who have lost work (or can’t work) as a result of the pandemic and aren’t eligible for employment insurance.
The CERB will pay people $2,000 per month for four months.
The government will also top up the pay for essential workers who are making under $2,500 per month like those working in long-term facilities, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Wednesday.
He will be meeting with the provincial and territorial leaders to discuss the wage boost, so that it can be implemented as quickly as possible, he said.
Trudeau will announce more measures for students and businesses struggling with commercial rent soon, he said.
New mental health supports
As of Wednesday, Canada is also offering an online mental health portal, Wellness Together Canada, that aims to help people struggling with anxiety, depression, loneliness, and other mental health struggles as a result of long-term self-isolation.
The app will connect people to mental health professionals—social workers, peer support, psychologists—for chat sessions and phone calls, and will provide information for those seeking a wide-range of mental health struggles, including support with addiction.
Canada’s federal government also passed its emergency wade subsidy designed to help struggling businesses keep their staff on payroll. The subsidy will pay up to $847 per week per employee for 12 weeks, with the hope that businesses will be able to keep their staff and rehire people already laid off.
Record-breaking economic shrink
On Wednesday, Statistics Canada released a flash estimate that found the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) shrank by 9 percent in March, the largest one-month decline since StatCan started publishing related data in 1961.
GDP is the core measure of a country’s economic health.
Canada’s GDP declined by 2.6 percent in the first quarter of this year, StatCan said.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) released grim projections on Tuesday for the global economy, expecting it to shrink by 3 percent, as COVID-19 continues to batter international markets.
The report estimates Canada’s economy will contract by at least 6.2 percent.
Death toll higher than expected
Cases of COVID-19 are likely going to be much higher than predicted in Canada, researchers say, and the country’s current death toll, which surpassed 1,000 on Wednesday, has already exceeded a best-case scenario.
By Wednesday afternoon, Canada had reported 27,557 cases and more than 1,000 deaths and Ontario had recorded its highest number of deaths in a single day. The province extended its state of emergency for another 28 days, until May 12.
Canada had originally estimated that between 500 and 700 deaths would take place by April 16.
An onslaught of COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care homes account for nearly half of all fatal infections and have caused the higher than expected number of total deaths and more deaths in homes are expected.
Researchers are projecting that the number of COVID-19 cases will be much higher than Canada’s federal politicians predict, particularly if physical distancing measures are relaxed anytime soon.
While Canada Health estimates that about 10 percent of Canadians will get sick from COVID-19 with current controls in place, a study by researchers from several universities, including the University of Ottawa and the University of California, Berkeley, suggests that between 56.7 percent and 84.5 percent of the population could fall ill, depending on how long physical distancing is in place.
Amir Attarran of the University of Ottawa, one of several researchers who worked on the study, told the Toronto Star that the country has made it past the virus’ first wave, which is good news, but there will likely be new outbreaks.
“We are all pre-immune, we are all still susceptible,” Attaran said. “If we lift the self-isolation and go out, many of us could get sick. Some of us will die.”
Trudeau said it will be “weeks” before physical distancing measures can be lifted and the economy reopened.
“It would be terrible if we loosened measures too quickly,” Trudeau said, because that could result in another spike of COVID-19.
Trudeau has also said several times that life likely won’t go back to “normal” until there is a vaccine for the novel coronavirus.
Canadian COVID-19 cases climbing, deaths too
As of Wednesday afternoon, the country had 27,557 probable or confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 1,000 deaths.
Here is the breakdown of confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases across Canada:
British Columbia: 1,517
Newfoundland and Labrador: 244
New Brunswick: 116
Nova Scotia: 517
Prince Edward Island: 25
Northwest Territories: 5
Late Monday, the global total of confirmed COVID-19 cases topped 1.8 million, with more than 117,000 deaths.
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