COVID-19 Government and International Response: March 24, 2020

What to Know

Globally there are more than 400,000 cases of COVID-19, up from 375,000 yesterday. Canada reports 2,583 cases, up just over 2,000 yesterday. Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s Deputy Chief Public Health Officer said, within the last week nearly 90% of cases reported are due to community spread, marking a major shift in the spread of COVID-19 in the country. Previously 80-90% of cases were linked to travel. Ontario confirms 85 more cases. There are now 588 cases in the province with 7 deaths.

Last week, Toronto Region Board of Trade surveyed its members to understand how they are dealing with the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses. The survey revealed the Board’s small business members are the most impacted by the economic downturn and highlighted four key areas of recommendations for governments that can help build on recently announced policies and guide the way in terms of determining next steps. These recommendations include loan access, supporting liquidity, subsidies for rent/mortgage and increasing the wage subsidy.

Yesterday the Ontario government announced all non-essential businesses were to close before midnight tonight and encouraged business-owners to continue their operations through work-from-home policies. A list of essential workplaces can be found here.

The Tokyo Olympics have been postponed, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced today. Prime Minister Abe stated the games would not be cancelled and will take place by the summer of 2021.

Federal

The Prime Minister revealed that from March 14th to 20th, 959,600 Canadians and 43,890 Permanent Residents have returned to Canada. He stressed that all Canadians returning home from abroad must go into isolation immediately and not make side-trips to pick-up groceries.

The Prime Minister and Premiers spoke about the federal emergencies act during their nightly call last evening. As he said in his news conference today, the Prime Minister reiterated to the Premiers, that its invocation is a measure of last resort.

Provincial

Premier Ford began his news conference articulating why it is important for construction sites to remain open while other businesses are closed as a result of COVID-19. The Premier noted many homes are nearly complete and people are waiting to move in, but he issued a warning that inspectors will shut down sites if proper precautions are not taken.

Ontario will also suspend time-of-use electricity rates, holding electricity prices to the off-peak rate of 10.1 cents-per-kilowatt-hour, for families, small businesses and farms currently paying time-of-use rates. The government says, “by switching to a fixed off-peak rate, time-of-use customers will see rate reductions of over 50 per cent compared to on-peak rates.”

Measures to provide electricity price relief was a key ask of the Toronto Region Board of Trade members in its business impact survey.

This discount will be applied automatically to electricity bills and will not require customers to apply.

Ontario is reporting a backlog of results on more than 10,000 COVID-19 tests. In response, Minister of Health Christine Elliott says the government is working to get to 5,000 tests per day by the end of the week and is aiming to reach 15,000 tests per day including private and university labs.

Toronto

Beginning today, TTC buses (excluding Wheel-Trans) will no longer accept cash payments, tickets or tokens and riders are asked to pay using PRESTO where available. The TTC states that riders who do not have a PRESTO card will not be denied service.

International

  • Amid reports that President Trump wants to ‘open up’ the United States by Easter, the number of COVID-19 cases in that country grew to more than 50,000, up from with 42,161 yesterday. The U.S. now has the third highest number of cases in the world, and has the potential to become the coronavirus epicenter according to the WHO.
  • China is reporting just 55 new cases today, all of them imported. Currently there are 81,171 cases in China. Authorities in Wuhan are beginning to ease lockdown measures in the city which was once the epicenter of the outbreak.
  • India’s number of COVID-19 cases has grown to 519. The country is now in lockdown for 21 days.
  • Italy is reporting more than 5,000 new cases with 69,176 cases in the country while the number of cases in Spain grew by 6,585 to 39,675.
  • Iran now reports 24,811 cases, up by 1,762.
  • Brazil now has 1,891 cases and Chile reports 922 cases.

What to Watch

Federal

Parliament reconvened this afternoon to pass the government’s $82-billion emergency aid package. It is currently being debated by MPs.

Provincial

The Province’s fiscal update is still expected tomorrow.