Canada to spend $1 billion combating COVID-19 spread, economic impacts

The federal government is putting more than $1 billion into its plan to combat and mitigate the impacts of the outbreak of COVID-19 in Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and a handful of key cabinet ministers announced the “comprehensive” coronavirus response package on Parliament Hill.

“The reality is that the number of people affected by the virus keeps climbing. Canada has been fortunate so far… but I know that people across the country are worried,” Trudeau said Wednesday morning.

“We have a responsibility to make sure that Canada is ready for all scenarios and we take that responsibility extremely seriously.”

The announcement includes three new major spending commitments—a more than ten-fold increase in funding for research, more support for provinces shoring up their regional health authorities and stockpiles in anticipation of a worsened spread of the virus, and waiving the waiting period for employment insurance assistance for workers who self-isolate.

The government’s package encompasses the new economic and health supports, as well as those already underway, totalling $1.101 billion.

According to the details obtained by CTV News, here’s how the government is allocating those funds:

  • Support for provinces and territories: $500 million
  • Investing in research: $275 million
  • Immediate and additional public health response, including funding for Indigenous Services Canada: $150 million
  • Sustained communications and public education: $50 million
  • Personal protective equipment: $50 million
  • International assistance: $50 million
  • A work sharing program: $12 million
  • Repatriation of Canadians: $7 million
  • Employment Insurance sickness benefits: $5 million
  • Initial support to the World Health Organization: $2 million

The prime minister was accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Health Minister Patty Hajdu and Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos at the press conference. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam was also present.

The federal government says its response plan is based on expert guidance around pandemic preparedness, but is also leaning on lessons learned from the SARS outbreak in 2003.

The Liberals say their approach to tackling the virus is focused on: cross-government and cross-institution collaboration, evidence-based decision-making, a proportional response to the level of threat, and flexibility as the situation evolves.

More to come…

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