PM says lockdown won’t start lifting until summer Ontario’s COVID-19 cases go up by 478

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3:47 Federal government has processed more than 5 million CERB applications

Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion says the federal government has processed more than 5 million claims from Canadians seeking financial support under the government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

At a briefing of government ministers today, Qualtrough said all Canadians who have applied will be approved, but acknowledged that some Canadians may have seen double payments in their bank accounts. She advised Canadians “not to worry about it.” 

“It’s fine we’re on it. We’re working it out. We will be in touch with Canadians with details on next steps. You don’t need to reach out to us.” 

Canadians will be eligible for a maximum of $8,000 over 16 weeks under the government’s program. The minister advised Canadians who may have received double payments to “budget accordingly.”

Qualtrough says those who filed an Employment Insurance claim before March 15 would have been automatically enrolled in CERB payments. Accounts will be reconciled at tax time next year for those who may have received payments they do not qualify for, the minister stressed.

2:38 Ontario to double daily coronavirus testing 

Ontario expects to double the number of coronavirus tests processed each day to 8,000 by April 15 and 14,000 by April 29, says Premier Doug Ford.

The announcement follows criticism of the lag in testing in the province, even as it opened 100 assessment centres to track the disease. The province reports that it has conducted more than 94,000 tests since the COVID-19 emergency was declared, but has only been able to manage around 3,000 tests per day despite facilities to conduct some 13,000 tests per day. The province says it has been slowly working through getting results for a backlog of some 10,000 tests and that more lab space is now available to ramp up examinations.

“We will spare no expense,” Ford said in his daily briefing.

The province has also announced the increased testing of vulnerable groups, including hospital inpatients, residents of long-term care and retirement homes, health care workers and caregivers, and police, paramedics and firefighters.

11:49 am PM says lockdown won’t start being lifted until summer

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated in a press conference today that social distancing measures will likely not be eased for several months.

During his daily briefing to media on COVID-19, Trudeau said the country is currently in the first stage of the virus – “the phase that runs to a certain extent unchecked, or difficultly checked, through our society.” If social distancing measures continue to be followed as they are, he said, subsequent phases will be more manageable.

“According to the models we’ve put forward, it is possible that we’ll be able to be out of [the current] wave this summer,” Trudeau added.

“At that point, we will be able to talk about loosening up some of the rules that are put in place, looking at particular sectors where people can go back to work, bringing in new rules around how people can interact in society.”

He said “We’ll have to be very careful about how we do that and we will have to remain vigilant and active every single day for possible resurgences.” He said that by that time Canada will have better testing systems in place to track and contain the virus.

Much of the PM’s update focused on reaching out to friends and family over the Easter long weekend, and asking Canadians “to stay strong” during what the PM termed “this phase of vigilance.”

There were also a range of questions of the PM on the economy, including whether Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz would be staying on after his term expires June 2.

The Globe is reporting that Poloz has signalled his willingness to stay to guide Canada through the current economic crisis, but Trudeau was non-committal on that question. He said discussions are ongoing, but that “no decision has been made yet,” while commending Poloz on his work over his six-year term as governor.

Trudeau was clearer on whether the feds would invoke the Emergencies Act should the requirement arise to enforce travel bans, for example. He said the provinces already have their own emergency powers should they be necessary and that the federal government would only intervene “If at one point those are insufficient. Then and only then will those be brought in. That would be our preference,” he said.

The PM was also asked about a March 10 memo from Ministry of Health officials which stated that the risk of coronavirus to Canada was “low.” The PM said that at that time the number of cases was low but that it was quickly ascertained Canada could be headed the direction of other countries, and that the decision was made to most swiftly from there.

11:21 am RCMP called on to enforce quarantine order

The RCMP has officially been asked to enforce the federal government’s quarantine order issued March 25 and requiring any person entering Canada to self-isolate for 14 days.

In a statement released this morning, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is also requesting that law enforcement agencies across the country help provide “physical verification” that those individuals who are supposed to be in quarantine are complying with the government’s order.

PHAC says the checks “will generally be limited to persons who, after PHAC has done initial verifications by phone, text or e-mail, may require a physical verification by police.”

The statement says “arrests would be the last resort” as “enforcing isolation or quarantine (self-isolation), may place officers and other persons at risk of exposure to the virus.”

Maximum penalties under the Quarantine Act include a fine of up to $750,000 and/or imprisonment for six months. A person who “willfully or recklessly” contravenes the Act and “causes a risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm to another person,” could be liable for a fine of up to $1 million or imprisonment of up to three years, or both.

11:05 am Ontario’s COVID-19 cases up by 478

The number of cases of COVID-19 in Ontario is 6,237, public health officials reported on Friday. The cases are up by 478 – 8.3 per cent – over the previous day. There have been 222 deaths and 2,574 cases are resolved.

The number of people in hospital are 673, there are 260 in intensive care and 217 people are intensive care on ventilators.

The total number of people tested in the province is 92,673 and 1,598 cases are under investigation.

10: 55 am Canada has more than 20,000 cases of COVID-19

As of Wednesday, there are 20,765 cases of COVID-19 in Canada and 509 people have died. The outbreak is a serious public health threat though most people who contract the virus have not been hospitalized. 

Symptoms include cough, fever, difficulty breathing and pneumonia in both lungs and may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure. People age 65 and over and people with compromised immune systems and/or underlying medical conditions have a higher risk of contracting a severe case.


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