Combatting COVID-19: Canada’s response and thinking about the next steps

Canadians are still coping with the challenges and changes that arrived with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. As your Member of Parliament, Deputy Leader of the Official Opposition and Shadow Cabinet Minister for Foreign Affairs, my office and I have received an overwhelming number of phone calls and emails from Canadians who are worried about what this crisis means for them and their families.

The Government of Canada has introduced measures such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), to mitigate the impact of business revenue decline and job losses of over 1 million Canadians in March. Many Canadians have shared with my team and me their concerns over the government’s criteria for the emergency benefit programs. Small business owners have expressed their fears over not having enough money to pay rent and their heartache at not being able to provide certainty for their employees. For many, the proposed government programs will not be enough or come fast enough to position them to continue their businesses as they had before the crisis. I was one of the few MPs that returned to Ottawa to review, debate, advocate for improvements and ultimately support the emergency legislation. I will continue to actively press the government to address the implementation challenges and the limitations of these benefits to ensure that both businesses and Canadians receive assistance.

For the list of resources and support, visit my website at LeonaAlleslevmp.ca or Canada.ca/Coronavirus. My office is available by email at LeonaAlleslev@parl.gc.ca or by phone at 905-773-8358 should you have any questions.

COVID 19 – How are we doing?

The statistics in Canada show that although there continues to be new cases daily, the rate is beginning to stabilize. In Ontario, reported cases increase by about 500 or 6% each day. Among the highest infected are health care workers and residents in long term care facilities. In Ontario, health care workers make up 11% of the reported cases, estimating over 980 cases. In both Ontario and Quebec, more than half of all deaths related to COVID-19 are linked to long term care facilities. As of April 17, the number of reported deaths in Canada surpassed the federal projected death rate totaling 1,200. Health officials are expecting the fatality rate to increase as the rate of infection continues to decrease.

Guidelines for reopening the economy:

While we may not yet have arrived at the point of lifting the lockdown, now is the time to begin to discuss when that might be, what conditions would need to be in place and what the re-opening process might look like. Once the country has hit its projected peak, measures can begin to be put in place to work toward returning to a normal state. Before lifting any restrictions, it’s suggested that there be a reduction in the number of new cases consistently over 14 days, a significant increase in health care capabilities in place to test, detect, isolate and trace contact, increased infection prevention practices at companies, minimal risk for outbreaks in long term care homes and health facilities, some degree of antibody testing and an assurance that the health care system has the capability to respond should a resurgence occur. It is essential that the easing of restrictions be balanced with ensuring that our health care system can manage the influx.

Generally, it is thought that the re-opening would be in phases as follows:
Phase 1) continue practicing physical distance as working from home is encouraged, schools and non-essential services remain closed and minimal nonessential travel;
Phase 2) after a sustained decline in new cases, some businesses and schools can reopen and non-essential travel within Canada may resume, however physical distancing must continue for leisure activities and the hospitality industry can operate under stricter rules. Large groups, events and international travel would likely remain prohibited;
Phase 3) if there is a continual lack of resurgence in cases, most remaining restrictions may be lifted but physical distancing would remain in place.

There must be a national plan to get Canada back to work. It must include a national framework to address critical medical item shortages like PPE, ventilators, drugs and testing supplies as the demand for them continues to dramatically increase, as well as a national strategy for their use. The national plan must be harmonized with and support the provinces before provinces can evaluate their trends and move forward with lifting limitations.

We must not risk the progress we have made in stopping the spread of this highly contagious virus. I urge everyone to continue to practice physical distancing and follow the advice of elected representatives and health officials.

Originally published in The Auroran Newspaper