A summary of the day's activities of Friday, October 2, follows.
Federal Government Relief Measures
- Prime Minister Trudeau announced a top-up of $600 million to the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF) and another $50 million to address gender based violence.
Statement of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
- Now that Parliament has reconvened, Prime Minister Trudeau is providing his COVID-19 updates from the West Block with his cabinet ministers and federal public health officials.
Federal Government Briefings
At twelve noon, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a news conference to provide an update on the federal government's response to COVID-19. Minister of Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Economic Development Melanie Jolie, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Tam and Deputy Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Njoo, joined the Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Trudeau began his comments by announcing that the COVID-19 Alert App will soon be available in Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, raising to seven the number of provinces that have access to Canada's COVID-19 exposure notification app. He said the Government of Quebec is “expected to make an announcement shortly”.
The Prime Minister also announced a top-up of $600 million for Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF) to continue to help small businesses. The funding will be distributed through Canada's regional development agencies: Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions, Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario (FedNor), and Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD).
Minster Joly added the RRRF program made a difference. “It helped 12, 000 businesses and protected nearly 95,000 jobs across the country,” she said. She indicated that SMEs are still struggling as entrepreneurs try to position their firms for recovery while the economy safely reopens.
The Prime Minister also announced that the Government of Canada was taking another step to address gender based violence by investing $50 million to organizations that provide assistance to women and children that have been subject to violence.
The Prime Minister said the funding includes:
- Up to $10 million for women's shelters and sexual assault centres
- Up to $10 million to support organizations providing services related to gender-based violence to Indigenous people off-reserve; and
- Up to $30 million for other women's organizations to support the delivery of supports such as counselling and crisis intervention, to help combat the spread of COVID, and to address the increased demand for services.
Minister LeBlanc reported on the Prime Minister's 19th telconf with provinces and territories. He noted yesterday's call was the first call the Prime Minister held with Canada's provincial and territorial since the outbreak of the second COVID-19 wave.
Minister LeBlanc said that testing, including progress being made on new rapid testing solutions, contact tracing and candidate vaccines were among the main topics of discussion. He also said “First Ministers reiterated their support for the Team Canada approach”, agreeing to continued strong collaboration to minimize the impacts of an increase in cases of COVID-19 and in supporting economic recovery.
Regarding the matter of Health Care Transfers (HCT), Minister LeBlanc said federal-provincial-territorial Deputy Ministers were working to confirm a date for a meeting. He hoped to provide a date within 10 days.
Dr. Tam provided an update on the evolution of COVID-19 across Canada. At the time of her update, there were 160,535 cases of COVID-19 in Canada, including 9,319 deaths. Over the past week, labs across the country tested an average of over 71,000 people daily with 1.8% testing positive. Daily case counts continue to rise with an average of 1,634 new cases being reported daily across Canada during the most recent 7 days. The majority (around 80%) of these cases have been reported by Quebec and Ontario. There are has been an increase in severe COVID-19 outcomes nationally. Over the past, there have been 500 COVID-19 cases in hospitals on any given day and 10 deaths reported daily over the past week.
Now that businesses and schools are open, Dr. Tam urged everyone to double down efforts to respect public health measures to bend the curve of the epidemic. She emphasized the need to reconfigure and downsize personal contact bubbles within the context of personal and family circumstances.
At 2:30 p.m. this afternoon, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair, Minister of Health Patty Hajdu and Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marco Mendicino, provided an update on border and travel restrictions that are in place due to COVID-19.
Minister Blair announced enhancements to travel restrictions and border measures that have been in place since March 2020.
- The presence of federal public health officers at the border is being scaled up over the coming months to cover 36 ports of entry that account for 90% of all traffic into Canada during normal operations. A total force of 190 public health officials will be deployed across the country by the end of the fiscal year.
- To improve information sharing, the Public Health Agency of Canada has deployed digital portals for travellers to share their critical information, including through the ArriveCAN app, so data can be transmitted to provinces and territories quickly and securely.
- The government is also scaling up the number of designated screening officers to strengthen compliance and enforcement efforts. To date, 100 designated screening officers at a call centre made approximately 4,300 live calls and 3,500 automated calls daily to travellers entering Canada, for a total of nearly 1 million contacts since March 2020.
The enhanced measures are being introduced to support greater family reunification, entry for compassionate reasons, and the safe and gradual entry of some international students.
Minister Hajdu announced that a process will be put in place to allow foreign nationals to enter Canada for compassionate reasons in specific circumstances, such as life-threatening illness, critical injury or death, with potential limited release from quarantine. Information on eligibility and the process for travel and entry to Canada for compassionate reasons will be available on October 8, 2020, on the Public Health Agency of Canada's website, canada.ca/coronavirus.
Minister Mendicino provided an outline of eligibility criteria for family reunifications and gradual entry of some international students, subject to respecting the mandatory quarantine measures, which require travellers to quarantine or isolate for 14 days immediately upon entry to Canada.
Family reunifications will apply to certain extended family members of Canadian citizens and Canadian permanent residents, including those in an exclusive dating relationship of at least 1 year and their dependent children, as well as adult children, grandchildren, siblings and grandparents. Minister Mendicino pointed out that detailed information on who may qualify as an extended family member and the process and requirements to be eligible to travel to and enter Canada will be available on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website on October 8, 2020.
Starting October 20, 2020, international students will be able to enter Canada if they are attending a designated learning institution that has been identified by their provincial or territorial government as having a COVID‑19 readiness plan in place
Minister Mendicino warned potential travellers not to make any travel plans until they have met all requirements and obtained all necessary authorizations to qualify to come to Canada under the new rules.
Statement of Ontario Premier Doug Ford
In an news conference at Queen's Park, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced additional public health measures and testing measures to respond to the second wave of COVID-19 and prevent and stop the spread of the virus, while safely keeping schools and businesses open, as the province reported new 732 cases today. Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams, President and CEO of Ontario Health Matthew Anderson, and Ontario's Chief Coroner and Executive Lead, COVID-19 Testing Approach, Dr. Dirk Huyer, joined the Premier.
The Premier said the government was extending the pause on any further reopening of businesses, facilities, and organizations for an additional 28 days, unless already permitted to open under O. Reg 364/20. Premier Ford then announced the government was mandating the use of face coverings in all public indoor settings across the province, such as businesses, facilities and workplaces, with limited exemptions. These new restrictions, which were adopted through the amended order O. Reg 364/20 (Rules for Areas in Stage 3 under the Reopening Ontario [A Flexible Response to COVID-19] Act, 2020), also include targeted restrictions in Ottawa, Peel, and Toronto.
- Setting an indoor capacity limit to restrict occupancy at restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments (including nightclubs) to the number of patrons who can maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from every other patron, to a maximum of 100 patrons, permitting no more than six patrons per table, requiring operators to ensure patrons lining up or congregating outside of their establishment maintain physical distancing, and mandating that the name and contact information for each patron be collected;
- Restricting group exercise classes at gyms and other fitness settings to 10 individuals, as well as restricting the total number of people allowed at these facilities to a maximum of 50; and
- Setting a limit on the number of people allowed at meeting and event facilities, including banquet halls, to six people per table and 50 people per facility.
This amended order will come into effect on Saturday, October 3, 2020 at 12:01 a.m.
In addition, the government is advising all Ontarians to allow close contact only with people living in their own household and maintain two metres physical distancing from everyone else. Individuals who live alone may consider having close contact with another household.
Premier Ford also said that beginning on Sunday, October 4, 2020, assessment centres will discontinue walk-in testing services, so the province's lab network can make significant progress in processing tests and to allow assessment centres the necessary time to reset, deep clean and ensure preparedness for the new appointment-based model, which begins on Tuesday, October 6.
Regarding the 90,000 test backlog in the province, the President and CEO of Ontario Health Matthew Anderson indicated that new technology is coming our way such as the antigen test, which is different from the Abbott ID NOW rapid point-of-care test approved by Health Canada this week, that will take pressure of the testing infrastructure. He suggested that the availability of an antigen test is probably a few weeks away. In the meantime, it was important for the government to clear the backlog and strengthen its core testing network.
Regarding Thanksgiving, Dr. Williams and Dr. Huyer encouraged everyone to assess the risk of extended family gatherings, echoing the advice of Dr. Tam. Their recommendation is to keep social circles tight and family gatherings small.
Contrary to his critics, Premier Ford does not believe the government's COVID-19 fall preparedness plan has been overtaken by events.
Statement of Quebec Premier Francois Legault
At a press conference in Montreal, Premier François Legault and Culture Minister Nathalie Roy announced on Friday that it is giving an additional $50 million to Quebec theatres and other cultural venues to compensate for losses caused by the latest COVID-19 shutdown in Montreal, Quebec City and Chaudière-Appalaches, the three regions that were elevated to the red zone under Quebec's COVID-19 alert system on October 1.
Premier Legault said the government will give the cultural promoters 75 per cent of the revenue from tickets the venues would have sold if the lockdown had not happened. In other words, they will pay out 75 per cent of the revenue from ticket sales in the year-earlier period. The program will run for six months, from Oct. 1 to March 31, 2021.
This funding will not only apply to venues and theatres in the red zone but to cultural outlets across Quebec. For example, if in a yellow zone where a venue is allowed a capacity of 250 people, the government will reimburse 75 per cent of the difference in revenue from last year.
Minister Roy said a venue will have to show the government that the money is going to the artists and that they've been paid to receive the funds.
This aid comes in addition to the $400 million worth of programs for the arts sector that were unveiled by the provincial government in June.
Museums will receive additional funding of $5 million. They, as well as movie theaters, can also benefit from funding under L'aide aux entreprises en régions en alerte maximale.
Premier Legault began the press conference by urging Quebecers to comply with public health measures.
On Monday, Premier Legault is expected to make an announcement regarding schools and school sports.
Elsewhere in Canada
Yesterday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health, announced 173 new cases of COVID-19 and three additional deaths.
The government has provided a new resource for safely celebrating Halloween during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Together, the governments of Canada and Alberta, with the support of municipalities and post-secondary institutions, will provide more than $52.7 million to complete four infrastructure projects in southern Alberta as approved through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program. The construction projects at colleges and a university will bring about 300 jobs to Medicine Hat, Standoff and Lethbridge as part of Alberta's Recovery Plan.
Yesterday, Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia's Provincial Health Officer, and Stephen Brown, Deputy Minister of Health, announced 82 new cases of COVID-19 and one death. To date, 69 individuals are hospitalized, with 19 of those in intensive care. There are 1,261 active cases in the province and 3,093 people under active public health monitoring for known exposures.
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