Government of Canada takes action on COVID-19

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The outbreak of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus originating in Wuhan, China, is a significant challenge for the entire world.

The Government of Canada has created the infrastructure to respond to the public health threats of the virus, and is well prepared to act—in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments and international partners—to minimize the health, economic, and social impacts of this rapidly evolving public health issue.

Canada's response is based on plans and guidance related to pandemic preparedness, with the following guiding principles:

These principles build on lessons learned from past events, particularly the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003, which led to dedicated legislation, plans, infrastructure, and resources to help ensure that the country would be well prepared to detect and respond to a pandemic outbreak. Some examples include:

While the Government of Canada has been focusing on containing the spread of COVID-19, it has also been undertaking coordinated planning to prepare for possible broader transmission of the virus, and to mitigate the impacts of a potential pandemic.

To support these efforts, the Prime Minister convened an Incident Response Group on coronavirus, which has been meeting since the end of January, and, on March 5, he created a Cabinet Committee on the federal response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister and vice-chaired by the President of the Treasury Board, the committee meets regularly to ensure whole-of-government leadership, coordination, and preparedness to limit the health, economic and social impacts of the virus.

Government support to date for COVID-19
$ millions Total
Immediate public health response 50
Repatriation of Canadians 7
Initial support to the World Health Organization 2
Sustained communications and public education 50
Investing in research 275
Support for provinces and territories 500
Personal protective equipment 50
International assistance 50
Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits 5
Work Sharing Program 12
Additional public health response, including funding for Indigenous Services Canada 100
Total 1,101

Protecting the health and safety of Canadians

The Government of Canada's response complements the pandemic public health and safety measures and strategies of the provinces and territories, which are designed to meet the unique requirements of each jurisdiction.

The Government of Canada is committing more than $1 billion dollars to public health measures to ensure the health and safety of Canadians.

To support the immediate response to the outbreak, $50 million was allocated to support initial actions, including border and travel measures and sustained activation of the Health Portfolio Operations Centre and the National Microbiology Laboratory. In addition, $7.1 million was provided to support the repatriation of Canadians and $2 million was contributed to the World Health Organization to support their efforts to contain the outbreak.

Informing Canadians

The Government of Canada has undertaken significant communications and public education on COVID-19 to inform Canadians of the Government's action, to help them make informed decisions and to enable them to take action to protect their health and their communities. Canadians have access to information, updated daily, through:

As the situation evolves, the Government of Canada will expand existing communications and public education to ensure that Canadians can make informed decisions on how best to protect themselves.

To ensure Canadians get trusted and accurate information, the Government of Canada is providing $50 million to the Public Health Agency of Canada's dedicated communications capacity and public education efforts.

Supporting Canadian travellers

Border measures: Travellers arriving at all major Canadian airports receive information and, if coming from high-risk areas, are screened to determine steps needed to protect their health and that of others. Similar information is available at Canada's land border crossings. All travellers are advised to monitor themselves for symptoms and to contact the local public health authority in their province or territory if they feel sick.

Travel advice: Global Affairs Canada is continually updating its guidance to travellers through travel health notices to inform Canadians of countries where the level of risk to health associated with COVID-19 is elevated. Global Affairs Canada is actively monitoring response measures being implemented by countries around the world that could impact travellers and is regularly updating the Travel Advice and Advisories for all countries on Travel.gc.ca. It is also distributing a publication on travelling in the context of COVID-19 at consular outreach events, via the Canadian Air Transportation Safety Authority, and in missions around the world to provide information to travellers. Canadians should regularly consult the Travel Advice and Advisories for their destination(s) and register with the Registration of Canadians Abroad in order to receive updates on local developments.

Consular assistance: Global Affairs Canada is providing 24/7 consular support to Canadians affected by COVID-19 through the Emergency Watch and Response Centre and through consular staff at its network of missions abroad. Consular staff are assisting Canadians by providing information and updates on local situations, providing assistance in incidents involving quarantine and hospitalization, and liaising with family members in Canada.

Assisted departures: The Government of Canada has supported the repatriation of Canadians from high-risk areas, including Wuhan, China, the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was docked in Yokohoma, Japan, and the Grand Princess cruise ship docked in San Francisco, USA.

Issuing public health guidance

Federal, provincial, and territorial health officials and experts have been and will continue to work closely to develop and disseminate guidance to ensure a coordinated and consistent approach to the COVID-19 outbreak. This includes guidance on infection prevention and control, surveillance, how to reduce the spread of disease in community settings such as schools, workplaces and mass gatherings. It also includes strategies to protect vulnerable populations including seniors and remote populations, and the appropriate use and prioritization of personal protective equipment and other countermeasures by health workers and first responders.

Investing in research

To further contribute to global efforts to address the outbreak, the Government of Canada has invested nearly $27 million to fund coronavirus research in Canada. This investment will support 47 research teams from across Canada that will focus on accelerating the development, testing and implementation of measures to deal with the outbreak.

Ensuring Canadians' access to vaccines and antivirals is a top priority. That's why the Government of Canada will invest $275 million in additional funding to enhance research capacity on vaccine and antiviral development and clinical trials, including in Canada.

Collaborating with provinces and territories as well as Indigenous leaders and communities

The Government of Canada is working closely with provinces and territories to ensure that all necessary and appropriate supports are available to ensure a comprehensive coordinated response to COVID-19. As the outbreak evolves, the Government of Canada will enhance its coordination efforts to support a larger-scale, harmonized response. This will include working together across jurisdictions to ensure consistent implementation of pandemic responses in the health system.

While provinces and territories are generally responsible for the provision of direct health care services to Canadians, the Government of Canada is ensuring that the needs of federal populations such as First Nations communities, members of the Canadian Armed Forces, and consular staff abroad, are being met and that measures are in place to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19.

To further support public health preparedness, the Government of Canada will provide $500 million to provinces and territories for critical health care system needs preparedness and mitigation efforts. Financial considerations should not and will not be an obstacle to hospitals and health systems making the necessary preparations.

Activating response measures

On January 15, 2020, the Public Health Agency of Canada, which had for several weeks been monitoring the situation in China, activated its Health Portfolio Operations Centre and triggered the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Public Health Response Plan for the Biological Events. These important steps have helped to ensure improved coordination across the country.

At the end of January, a federal-provincial-territorial Special Advisory Committee on the Novel Coronavirus (SAC) was established to advise Deputy Ministers of Health across Canada on the coordination, public health policy, and technical content related to the COVID-19 outbreak. SAC comprises members of the Pan-Canadian Public Health Network Council and the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health of Canada.

It is supported by three expert groups that bring together senior federal-provincial-territorial officials and public health experts: a Technical Advisory Committee, a Logistics Advisory Committee and the Public Health Network Communications Group.

Since January, the Minister of Health has held weekly Health Ministers' calls with her provincial and territorial counterparts, as has the Deputy Minister of Health Canada, to understand the situation in each jurisdiction and accelerate collaboration to meet common needs.

Working with Indigenous leaders and communities

Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is working closely with the Public Health Agency of Canada, other departments, and provincial and territorial counterparts to protect the health and safety of First Nations to support them in responding to public health threats, including the novel coronavirus. ISC's regional emergency management coordinators, communicable disease coordinators, and regional medical officers are working with First Nations communities and the BC First Nations Health Authority in support of public health emergency preparedness and response activities. The Government of Canada will also engage with First Nations and Inuit communities to support access to health services that are comparable to that of other Canadians. ISC is working closely with Indigenous partners, provincial and territorial governments to share information to prepare for and respond to COVID-19.

Supporting testing and laboratory capacity

The Public Health Agency of Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory is central to the response to COVID-19. It has been working collaboratively with Canadian provincial and territorial public health laboratories to ensure there is additional testing capacity, including in the rapid diagnosis of COVID-19 in multiple jurisdictions, and is integral to Canada's research on the novel coronavirus, vaccines, and treatment.

Pan-Canadian surveillance

Federal, provincial, and territorial governments have been closely monitoring and reporting on COVID-19 cases through existing systems and protocols to ensure that decision-makers have timely information to inform response efforts. This surveillance enables decision-makers to understand where illness is occurring, who is most affected, and the overall impact on the health system. Surveillance and testing are being continuously strengthened through federal-provincial-territorial cooperation.

Essential supplies and medicines

Federal, provincial, and territorial governments are working closely to ensure that Canada has the health supplies and surge capacity needed to respond in the event of a pandemic. This includes adding to federal and provincial stockpiles, collaborating on bulk purchases, identifying options to diversify domestic supply sources, and investing in Canada's National Emergency Strategic Stockpile to ensure critical resources can be deployed to provinces and territories if needed.

The Government of Canada will invest $50 million towards the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other necessary medical supplies and equipment to support federal requirements. Additional PPE supplies—such as nitrile gloves, surgical masks, N95 respirators, face shields, isolation gowns and coveralls—will be made available to help address the anticipated demands on local, provincial and territorial governments and health workers.

Contributing to the international response

The Government of Canada has engaged with its international counterparts through various means since the novel coronavirus emerged. With the situation related to COVID-19 evolving rapidly around the world, the Government of Canada will continue to work closely with its international partners, including the World Health Organization, to reduce risks to Canadians and the global community.

Collaboration with international organizations: In support of global efforts to combat COVID-19, the Government of Canada provided $2 million to the World Health Organization to help vulnerable countries prepare and respond to coronavirus events.

The Government of Canada will provide an additional $50 million in international assistance to the World Health Organization and other partners for potential bi-lateral support for developing countries in response to COVID-19.

Federal G7 health and finance ministers have held regular calls to share approaches and discuss responses with the aim of protecting the health of their citizens and the global population as well as mitigating other issues related to the outbreak.

The Government of Canada will also continue working with international health regulators, including the European Medicines Agency and the United States Food and Drug Administration, to support and coordinate rapid regulatory responses for potential vaccines and other medical countermeasures.

Support for other countries: The Government of Canada has provided China with approximately 16 tonnes of personal protective equipment—such as clothing, face shields, masks, goggles and gloves—to support China's response to the outbreak without diminishing needed supplies in Canada. The Government continues to support other global initiatives that are helping to strengthen health systems and improve early detection of viruses such as COVID-19.

Ensuring economic resilience

As the number of countries affected by COVID-19 increases, the risk of a domestic and international economic downturn also rises, given the impacts on supply chains, commodity prices and global financial markets.

G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors issued a joint statement in early March reaffirming their commitment to using all policy tools to safeguard against risks to the global economy and to encourage strong economic growth.

In Canada, federal, provincial and territorial Ministers of Finance are closely monitoring the spread of the virus and its impact on Canadian jobs, workers, entrepreneurs, and economic growth. As the channels of impact become clearer, the Government of Canada will be ready to take action to support affected workers and businesses, where and when appropriate.

The Government of Canada will waive the one-week waiting period for people who are in quarantine or have been directed to self-isolate and are claiming for Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits, at an estimated cost of $5 million. The Government of Canada will also introduce enhancements to the Work-Sharing Program at an estimated cost of $12 million to help employers who are experiencing a downturn in business due to COVID-19, and their workers. We are exploring additional measures to support other affected Canadians, including income support for those that are not eligible for EI sickness benefits.

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.

Maintaining government services to Canadians

A committee of Deputy Ministers, supported by the Government Operations Centre, has been struck to ensure preparedness and coordination of federal efforts and the continuity of government services to minimize health, economic, and social impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak

To ensure the ongoing delivery of critical services, the Government of Canada has initiated whole-of-government contingency planning informed by the best available health and scientific advice regarding COVID-19.

Each federal department and agency is assessing its preparedness by reviewing its business continuity plans to ensure continuity of the Government's services to Canadians.

As the situation evolves, the Government will continue monitoring threats to critical services and infrastructure to ensure continuity of essential services and supports across all levels of government. The Government Operations Centre will increase its level of activity to coordinate federal actions, including to potentially reallocate human resources across the Government to ensure delivery of key functions.

To complement these ongoing actions, the Government of Canada will provide $100 million in funding to sustain the Public Health Agency of Canada's current public health measures and the sustained funding of the Health Portfolio Operations Centre and the National Microbiology Laboratory. Funding will also support Health Canada's regulatory readiness. Funding for Indigenous Services Canada will be used to support First Nations and Inuit communities in sustaining health services and managing impacts of COVID-19.

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