Updated at 6:15 p.m. (EDT): Canada has signed supply contracts with three Canadian companies to manufacture surgical masks, respirators, and other diagnostic materials, and allocated an additional $2 billion for the purchase of personal protective equipment, announced Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday.
Thornhill Medical, Medicom, and Spartan Bioscience are working with Ottawa to ramp up production of medical equipment for the coming days. Five additional companies have signed letters of intent alongside the Canadian government to ensure the country produces more medical equipment.
“We will need more masks, ventilators, and testing kits,” Trudeau said. “But how many more we need depends on you.”
If Canadians stay home, Trudeau said, virus spread will slow and the country will need less medical equipment.
Cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) are skyrocketing in Canada, surpassing 7,700 with 89 deaths, and officials say things could get much worse in April before they get better.
According to Canada’s chief medical officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, the continuing surge of cases is a key concern, especially outbreaks among vulnerable populations, including shelters and long-term care facilities.
The largest outbreak in Ontario has taken place in a Bobcaygeon nursing home, where 12 residents and one volunteer died, and more than 30 staffers reported COVID-19 symptoms.
“These enclosed & highly populated environments can accelerate the spread of the virus,” Tam tweeted.
Provinces and municipalities across the country are gradually implementing stricter stay-at-home measures to limit the spread of the virus. After Ontario announced its largest jump in cases and 10 deaths on Monday, Premier Doug Ford issued an emergency order that closed all outdoor amenities across the province, such as tennis courts, parks, off-leash dog areas, sports fields, and playgrounds, and extended the state of emergency for another two weeks, until April 13. The move follows Ford’s Saturday announcement that banned gatherings of more than five people.
Quebec also announced its greatest COVID-19 surge on Monday. Several Montreal neighbourhoods have close ties to New York and Miami—pandemic hotspots—which likely resulted in an onslaught of infections contracted before Canada implemented a travel ban. Police have been instructed to ban social events in higher risk areas.
In British Columbia, bylaw officers have been granted the unprecedented power to enforce health orders. While they can’t make arrests or issue fines, they’re able to dole out strict warnings and report offenders to B.C. Health.
Nova Scotia doubled down on its stay-at-home rhetoric on Monday after the province announced its first COVID-19 infection caused by community transmission, meaning it is not linked to travel and has no known source.
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers, which represents Canada Post staff, is now asking all residents to disinfect their mailboxes, so that workers are protected.
At least five Canada Post workers have already contracted the virus in St. John’s.
Pandemic causing economic hardship
When speaking to reporters on Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finessed details surrounding his government’s new wage subsidy aimed at supporting small and large businesses affected by COVID-19.
The goal is to keep people on payroll, so that the economy can bounce back faster when the pandemic is over, Trudeau said.
Businesses of all sizes will be eligible for the 75 percent wage subsidy as long as they’ve lost 30 percent of revenue as a result of COVID-19.
Trudeau will address Canadians again at 11:15 a.m. (EDT) on Tuesday.
Canadian cases continue to climb
As of Tuesday morning, the country had more than 7,700 confirmed cases and 101 deaths, most of which have been recorded in British Columbia, Quebec, and Ontario. Here is the breakdown of confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases across Canada:
British Columbia: 1,113
Newfoundland and Labrador: 148
New Brunswick: 68
Nova Scotia: 127
Prince Edward Island: 18
Northwest Territories: 1
There are more almost 700,000 known COVID-19 cases globally, with more than 33,000 deaths.
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