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Coronavirus: Federal government to unveil plans for COVID-19 support Wednesday

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The Canadian government will reveal Wednesday how it plans to support businesses and workers hit by the economic impact of COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to provide the details at a Wednesday morning press conference on Parliament Hill, a press release said Tuesday evening.

Earlier on Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland spoke with reporters in Ottawa on Tuesday following a meeting of the new cabinet committee on the new coronavirus and said the focus was on the need to act as global cases rise above 115,000, with 79 confirmed or presumed cases in Canada.

READ MORE: ‘A handful’ of Canadian crew on Grand Princess cruise ship have coronavirus

There have been 4,000 deaths worldwide so far, including one in Canada.

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“I believe that we’re now at a stage where we have to take concrete action,” said Freeland.

“We talked about that concrete action [at committee] and it’s a question of days when it comes to an announcement on concrete measures we’ll be taking.”

Freeland said the committee will meet again on Thursday.

The House of Commons is set to rise on Friday though for a one-week break period from legislative activity.

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Coronavirus outbreak: ‘Our civic sense is the only thing that can save us’ says Italy resident as entire country locks down

Governments around the world have been putting in place varying measures of lock downs and quarantine in an attempt to contain the spread of the virus.

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Some, including the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, have put travel restrictions in place.

READ MORE: Officials urge Canadians to ‘avoid all cruise ship travel’ over COVID-19 risk

The Italian government this week put the whole country of 60 million on lock down until next month as infections there strain local health systems in what’s become the epicentre of the European outbreak of the virus.

Trudeau, however, has criticized measures like travel restrictions as “knee jerk” reactions.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu has also stressed that there’s no proof such measures actually work.

“This virus knows no borders,” she said in question period on Tuesday when asked whether the government would implement enhanced border screenings or bar flights from countries experiencing outbreaks.

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“The measures we’ve taken at the borders are targeted, they’re based on evidence.”

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Hajdu also spoke with reporters following question period and said health officials still view the risk as low because the virus has not yet been spreading in Canada the way it has been spreading in regions with significant outbreaks.

“Right now, the risk is low because we don’t have incredible community transmission,” she said.

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“When that begins to happen we will know, and we will let Canadians know.”

Trudeau, Freeland and the provincial premiers are set to meet on Friday in Ottawa for the First Ministers’ meeting.

Freeland said she expects the response to the coronavirus spread will be “one of the most important issues” on the agenda there.

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— With files by David Akin

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