More signs that the spread of COVID-19 is slowing in Canada emerged on Wednesday, prompting further talk of easing the isolation measures that have proven economically crippling.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has already announced more than $100 billion in various forms of assistance, offered more financial supports on Wednesday.
The money — a total of $9 billion — would go to students struggling to stay afloat but who have lacked access to previously announced emergency financial assistance. Students will receive $1,250 a month from May to August under the assistance, he said.
We want to make sure that you will be OK
“As young people what you’re going through matters,” Trudeau said. “We want to make sure that you will be OK.”
Student grants would be doubled for the coming academic year, the prime minister added.
In addition, the government said it would create 76,000 new summer jobs for young people in sectors that “need an extra hand.” The jobs would be in addition to those on offer through the government’s regular summer jobs program.
The country’s largest province, on Wednesday, reported its slowest growth in identified cases of COVID-19 in weeks — 510 new cases or a daily increase of 4.3 per cent. Ontario also reported 37 new deaths, bringing the total to 659 deaths on a caseload of 12,245.
Also encouraging was the fact that the percentage of resolved infections has surpassed the 50 per cent mark for the first time.
Premier Doug Ford has mused the province could start easing restrictions ahead of next month’s long weekend if the moderating trend holds.
Trudeau said the trends were positive, showing the measures were working even as he noted that long-term care homes had been “hard hit.”
Nova Scotia, for example, reported two more COVID-related deaths on Wednesday — both at a nursing home in Halifax — bringing the province’s total deaths to 12.
Regardless, the financial fallout of the anti-COVID measures — social isolation and the shut down of non-essential commercial activities — has been profound.
The impact of the epidemic was seen on the inflation front, where Statistics Canada reported the consumer price index for March was up a scant 0.9 per cent compared with a year ago. That was the smallest increase since May 2015 and compares with the 2.2 per cent annualized rate recorded in February.
The government is set to announce its fiscal update for February on Friday — including a deficit number that is bound to look positively microscopic compared to the red ink in which the government has been awash since the pandemic forced the economy to a virtual standstill in mid-March.
Trudeau also said the closure of the Canada-U.S. border would stay in place until May 21 at least.