COVID-!9: Summary of Key Developments, April 1st

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Dear IDN Members,

Here is an update on the latest developments at the provincial and federal level as government leaders continue to introduce new measures to tackle COVID -19. The announcements described below range from a call by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health for the use of more urgent measures to enforce self-isolation, increased funding to support the development of medical supplies and equipment and more details about federal benefit and wage subsidy programs.

Provincial Developments

Social Distancing:

  • Premier Ford stressed that we are “facing a ruthless enemy… if we’re going to beat this virus, we need to remember that the virus doesn’t travel on its own: – it’s people that help spread it”;
  • he emphasized the next few weeks are critical and urged Ontarians to help slow the virus  by keeping away from others; he noting that there’s little separating us from the situation in Italy and Spain; and
  • He warned that he’s prepared to take any measure and won’t hesitate to take further action.

CMOH Calls for More Aggressive Measures:

  • Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, has directed local Medical Officers of Health (MOHs) to enforce isolation for those with the virus and their contacts and recommended MOHs implement more aggressive contact tracing and management to help flatten the curve;
  • he urged local MOHs to use their powers under Section 22; among other things, this order could result in those being directed to stay home and defying that order being charged with a provincial offence and fined up to $5,000 per day;
  • A copy of Dr. Williams’s memo to local public health agencies was released by the Ministry of Health; and
  • The note also highlighted the $100M in additional funding to public health units announced in last week’s fiscal and economic update.

Developing Equipment and Supplies:

  • a $50 million Ontario Together Fund was launched to “help companies retool, build capacity or adopt the technological changes needed to produce supplies and equipment to manufacture essential medical supplies and equipment, including gowns, coveralls, (e.g. masks, face shields, testing equipment, ventilators) for hospitals, long-term care homes and other critical public services”;
  • the Fund will support the development of proposals submitted by businesses and individuals; and
  • Some 10,000 ventilators have been ordered from Ontario based O-Two Medical Technologies.

Breaching an Emergency Order:

  • provincial law enforcement officers can now require people to identify themselves when being charged with an offence under Ontario’s state of emergency;
  • charges could be laid for not complying with requirements to self-isolate, closing business or attending social gatherings or for price gouging; and
  •  provincial and municipal police and bylaw enforcement, First Nations and special constables can require a person to provide their correct name, date of birth, and address when being charged; those not complying can face fines, starting at $750.

Testing and Cases:

  • 2,392 cases of COVID-19, an increase of 426; this almost 22% increase is largely due to the number of tests conducted;
  • only 3,135 tested are under investigation;
  • 332 people are in  hospitals, 145 of them in intensive care; of those, 98 are on ventilators;
  • 37 people have died with 30 of these being deaths of residents in long-term-care homes; and
  • some 22 facilities for seniors are experiencing outbreaks.

Federal Developments:       

Outlined below is a summary of the announcements made today by Prime Minister Trudeau, Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough about the Canada Economic Response Benefit, Employment Insurance and Canada Economic Wage Subsidy.

The Prime Minister is recalling Parliament in order to pass new legislation needed to deliver the enhanced COVID-19 emergency aid measures. Recognizing the extraordinary efforts being made by everyone, he exclaimed that, “Canada hasn’t seen this type of civic mobilization, since the Second World War.”

Canada Economic Response Benefit (CERB):

Prime Minister Trudeau and Finance Minister Morneau provided more details about the CERB calling it “the largest economic program in Canada’s history.” The new program will:

  • cover a period of up to 16 weeks and be available to any Canadian who has stopped working for a 14-day period due to COVID-19;
  • support wage earners, contract workers, or self-employed individuals; those who’ve had to stay home without pay to self-isolate or care for loved ones; and anyone else who hasn’t been permanently laid off, but has stopped receiving paycheques;
  • be open for Canadians to apply from April 6th onwards by going here; and
  • measures are being taken to avoid overloading the application system.

Employment Insurance (EI):

  • Finance Minister Morneau and Employment Minister Qualtrough provided the following details about the difference between EI and CERB:
    • any of the 2.1 million Canadians who have applied for EI benefits within the last two weeks, of which 430,000 have been approved, will be moved over to the new emergency benefit (CERB) when it becomes available;
    • Canadians who would have received EI benefits below the $2,000-per-month threshold will now be bumped up to the maximum payment; and
    • EI-eligible workers will still qualify for their usual benefits, whether lower or higher than $2000-per-month, after the four-month CERB period;
  • the government aims to process around 400,000 application per day which will help to clear the backlog by next week; and
  • people who have already applied for EI will begin receiving money over the next few days.

Canada Economic Wage Subsidy (CEWS):

While sending a clear message to employers to “get ready to rehire”, Finance Minister Morneau outlined the following details of the CEWS program:

  • it will help businesses cover up to 75% of wages and keep their employees on the payroll;
  • it includes organizations from bars and restaurants to charities, small businesses and large corporations;
  • employees receiving this benefit, cannot apply for other unemployment benefits;
  • employers can apply through the Canada Revenue Agency portal that will be launched soon; funds will be dispersed within 6 weeks; and
  • anyone who breaks the trust implicit in this program will bear severe penalties.

Cases in Canada:

  • 9,595 cases; 109 deaths
  • Over 250,000 tested; 3.7% confirmed as positive and 95% tested negative

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