Coronavirus Updates Canada: Trudeau Allocates $1.1B to Ramp Up Testing and Search for Vaccine

Plus, Canada is sending military in to fight outbreaks in Quebec and Ontario seniors' facilities; Saskatchewan is unveiling a five-stage plan to reopen; WestJet announces 3,000 layoffs.
Anya Zoledziowski
Toronto, Canada
April 23, 2020, 1:12pm
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Photo by Sean Kilpatrick (CP)

Updated at 4 p.m. (EDT): Canada is allocating an additional $1.1 billion to fight the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Thursday.

The funding will be used to look for treatments and vaccines for the virus and develop better testing and modelling.

Trudeau said $115 million will support hospitals and university currently working on treatments and vaccines; $662 million will fund clinical trials across Canada; and $350 million will expand national testing and modelling of COVID-19, including the collection of data that will highlight which groups are hardest hit by the pandemic.

Trudeau said the country will also ramp up testing. Right now, the country administers about 20,000 tests per day.

Military to help contain virus hot spots

Ontario is following Quebec in asking for help from the military to help fight the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in long-term care homes.

Seniors’ facilities account for about 70 percent of Ontario’s 659 deaths, according to the Globe and Mail.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the government will deploy military personnel to five seniors’ facilities, but did not specify which ones.

According to CTV, there are 128 COVID-19 outbreaks out of Ontario’s 630 long-term care homes.

The call for military support comes as the province’s battle against COVID-19 is seemingly starting to pay off in Ontario and the infection rate is slowing down.

At the beginning of April, COVID-19 infections doubled about every eight days, the Toronto Star reported. Now, cases are doubling every two weeks.

Quebec has already requested and received help several times, and on Wednesday, the province’s premier, Francois Legault, asked for another 1,000 personnel, also to contain COVID-19 in nursing homes.

Long-term care homes account for a staggering 80 percent of Quebec’s 1,134 deaths.

“We are witnessing terrible tragedies in long-term care homes across the country,” Trudeau said. “We must do better.”

More information about reopening provinces

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said he is ready to start reopening the province with a gradual, five-stage plan.

Phase one will restart medical services, including dentistry, physical therapy, opticians, podiatry, as well as low-risk outdoor activities like boating and fishing.

The second phase is slated for May 19 and will reopen businesses previously banned by emergency orders. That includes retail stores, hairdressers, and travel agencies.

All businesses will have to either ensure physical distancing can take place on their premises or will have to implement screening measures at the door. Subsequent phases will come into play depending on the success of stages one and two, and will slowly introduce gyms, child care, outdoor entertainment facilities, and will allow progressively larger crowds to gather.

Quebec is mulling over a plan to reopen schools and daycares before the end of June in regions that haven’t been hit hard by the virus.

But the province’s premier, François Legault, said it will be a bad idea to send all students back to school in September because it could ignite a second wave of COVID-19 in Quebec.

And it’s still possible schools will reopen in some way before the end of the current school year, Legault said.

For now, Quebec schools are slated to remain closed until May 4.

Even though Toronto hasn’t offered many details yet about the city’s future reopening, it loosened one restriction on Wednesday: people are now allowed to sit on public benches without risking a fine. But Mayor John Tory said he’s cancelling the cherry blossom viewing in Toronto’s High Park as a way to prevent crowds and subsequent spikes in COVID-19 infections.

Instead, the city will stream cherry blossom footage online.

Thousands of WestJet layoffs

WestJet announced plans to lay off 3,000 staff and will cancel more than 4,000 domestic flights weekly in May.

About 600 flights will be removed daily between May 5 and June 4.

“With less than 5 per cent of our pre-COVID-19 guest loads, work is simply not currently available” WestJet President and CEO Ed Sims said in a statement Wednesday.

COVID-19 in Canada

As of Thursday morning, Canada had 40,190 COVID-19 cases and 1,974 deaths.

Here’s a breakdown of confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases across the country:

British Columbia: 1,795

Alberta: 3,401

Saskatchewan: 326

Manitoba: 257

Ontario: 12,245

Quebec: 20,965

Newfoundland and Labrador: 256

New Brunswick: 118

Nova Scotia: 772

Prince Edward Island: 26

Yukon: 11

Northwest Territories: 5

Nunavut: 0

Late Tuesday, the global total of confirmed COVID-19 neared 2.5 million, with more than 169,000 deaths.

Follow Anya Zoledziowski on Twitter.