COVID-19 Government and International Response: March 20, 2020

March 20, 2020

What to Know

Canada reports 873 cases on the federal government’s COVID-19 website. Ontario announced 301 active cases this morning. Both numbers are up from previously reported case numbers.

The Federal government also reports there have been 500,000 applications for Employment Insurance this week, compared to 27,000 this time last year.

WestJet and its discount carrier Swoop are suspending international travel as of Sunday. Swoop is working to bring home more than 2,300 passengers. Sunwing expects to have all of its passengers home by Monday and is also offering vacant seats on its repatriation flights free of charge to any stranded Canadians, including non-Sunwing customers.

Federal

The Prime Minister announced the government is in discussion with airlines to help Canadians stranded abroad come home. The first flight will pick-up Canadians in Morocco this weekend. The Canada/US border closure agreement will take effect at midnight tonight. As well, Canada and the US will return irregular migrants trying to cross the border.

A plan to mobilize industry to fight COVID-19 to produce here in Canada things we need was the key new initiative announced this morning. This initiative will enable companies already making ventilators, masks and hand sanitizer to massively scale up production and provide support to those who want to retool their facilities. The government is also creating expedited new procurement streams to allow more businesses to produce products and solutions Canadians need.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau also announced amendments to mortgage insurance eligibility criteria, set out in regulations made under the National Housing Act and Protection of Residential Mortgage or Hypothecary Insurance Act. These changes are intended to provide stable funding and liquidity to financial institutions and mortgage lenders and support continued lending to Canadian businesses and consumers.

Provincial

This morning Premier Ford launched the first phase of Learn at Home and Apprendre à la maison, a new online portal that will provide resources for families so students can continue their education while schools are closed due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation.

Toronto

Toronto residents will have an extra 60 days to pay property tax, water and solid waste utility bills. Mayor Tory announced this is retroactive to March 16. A previously announced 30-day extension offered to businesses on tax and utility payments has also been pushed to 60 days.

Toronto’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Eileen de Villa called on all non-essential businesses in the city to close at a news conference yesterday afternoon and continued to encourage Torontonians to practice social distancing.

International

  • The number of COVID-19 cases in the United States is growing rapidly, with 16,621 cases reported.
  • Currently there are 80,967 cases in China. China’s new COVID cases continue to flatline after yesterday’s announcement of no new local COVID-19 cases, meaning the increases they are now seeing are imported.
  • India’s number of COVID-19 cases has grown to 223.
  • Europe continues to report rapid growth in COVID-19 cases. Italy is the second hardest hit country in the world after China, now reporting 47,021 cases. Spain is now reporting the third highest COVID-19 cases, now at 20,410.
  • Iran, now reports 19,644 cases.
  • In South America, Brazil is reporting 650 cases and Chile reports 434 cases.
  • The U.S. and Mexico have agreed to close that border to non-essential travel in a similar deal to the one Canada has with the U.S.

The UK government announced its Plan for People’s Jobs and Incomes. As part of its plan, the UK government will pay 80% of wages for those not working as a result of the coronavirus crisis. This announcement comes a few days after the government put forward its £350bn aid for UK businesses.

What to Watch

Provincial

Additional measures are expected to be announced by Finance Minister Rod Phillips next week. It may come on March 25 when the province’s scaled-back mini budget is to be released.