Federal government announces $1-billion in COVID-19 response measures

As part of its planning, the Government of Canada has announced a COVID-19 response fund of more than $1 billion. It includes measures already underway to respond to the outbreak and new measures to limit the spread and prepare for its broader impacts on the nation.

It includes:

Help Canadians make informed decisions and take action to protect their health and their communities by providing $50 million to support the Public Health Agency of Canada’s COVID-19 communications and public education efforts.

Further support public health preparedness by providing $500 million to provinces and territories for critical health care system needs and to support mitigation efforts as needed. This could include help to support with access to testing, acquisition of equipment, and to enhance surveillance and monitoring. Financial considerations should not and will not be an obstacle to hospitals and health systems making the necessary preparations.

Provide support to workers in quarantine or who have been directed to self-isolate who will claim Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits by waiving the mandatory one-week waiting period so they can be paid for the first week of their claim. We are exploring additional measures to support other affected Canadians, including income support for those who are not eligible for EI sickness benefits.

Introduce enhancements to the Work-Sharing program to help support employers and their workers who are experiencing a downturn in business due to COVID-19. Work-sharing helps keep workers employed and able to receive income support even as their hours of work may be reduced. These enhancements will double the length of time that employers and workers are eligible to use work-share from 38 to 76 weeks, and streamline processes so help can be accessed as soon as possible.

Support federal public health measures such as enhanced surveillance, increased testing at the National Microbiology Laboratory, and ongoing support for preparedness in First Nations and Inuit communities, by providing $100 million. This is in addition to an initial $50 million that was provided to support the immediate public health response.

Enhance Canada’s capacity in research and development, including research on medical countermeasures, including antivirals, vaccine development and support for clinical trials, by providing $275 million in additional funding building on top of the recent $27 million announcement to fund coronavirus research in Canada.

Ensure adequate supplies of personal protective equipment like surgical masks, face shields, and isolation gowns by providing $50 million to the Public Health Agency of Canada to support purchases for provinces and territories, as well as to address federal needs.

Address the worldwide outbreak and help more vulnerable countries prepare for and respond to the virus by contributing an additional $50 million to support the efforts of the World Health Organization and other partners.

To support businesses should the economy experience tightening credit conditions, the Government will act swiftly to stimulate the economy by strengthening investment in federal lending agencies such as the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada. This partnership between Canada’s financial Crown corporations and private sector financial institutions, in response to credit conditions during the 2008-2009 financial crisis, provided $11 billion of additional credit support to 10,000 firms. In addition, flexible arrangements could be made for businesses trying to meet payment obligations to the Canada Revenue Agency.

Through these and other measures, the Government of Canada will continue to protect the health and safety of all Canadians, ensure economic resilience, and contribute to the international response to COVID-19.

Province funds $200,000 in Usask COVID research

The provincial government is giving $200,000 to a university of Saskatchewan research team that’s working to help find a vaccine for COVID-19.

The university’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization – International Vaccine Centre has previously worked on vaccines for SARS and the Zika virus. The Saskatoon lab is one of the few facilities in the world with regulatory approval to work on the new virus.

“Saskatchewan’s infectious disease researchers are among the best in the world and our government is proud to support their efforts in the development of a vaccine to protect against COVID-19,” said Tina Beaudry-Mellor, the minister in charge of Innovation Saskatchewan, in a media release.

Researchers are looking at the safety and efficiency of potential vaccines and medications to reduce the ability of the virus to multiply. It hopes to know within weeks whether an effective vaccine has been developed. If animal trials are successful, clinical testing with humans would take place as soon as possible.

The team collaborating with the WHO and researchers in several countries, received a grant earlier this month from federal funding agencies as part of the $26.7 million rapid research initiative to contain the coronavirus outbreak. “Support for this research is increasingly important as the disease continues to spread,” said Dr. Volker Gerdts, the CEO of the university’s vaccine centre. “This support will help in our worldwide efforts to develop a solution for this disease.”