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Coronavirus: 500,000 Canadians have filed for EI this week

More Canadians losing jobs due to pandemic
WATCH: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the unemployment of thousands of Canadians, and the federal government is racing to mitigate the damage of what may be the worst economic downturn in the country's history. David Akin reports on how much the feds' potential support package could be worth.

More than half a million Canadians have recently filed for employment insurance as the novel coronavirus pandemic takes its toll on Canada’s job market.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the number of calls received by Service Canada and other government agencies has been “historic.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus — Here’s how to apply for EI and the new COVID-19 emergency benefit

“We received over 500,000 applications so far this week, compared to just under 27,000 applications for the same week last year,” he said in reference to employment insurance.

How employers are handling the uncertain times of the COVID-19 outbreak
How employers are handling the uncertain times of the COVID-19 outbreak

“I know people are anxious to get the help they deserve, and our government is working as fast as possible to support them. This is, of course, an unprecedented situation, and it’s putting a lot of pressure on our system, but we’re on it. Thousands of public servants are working around the clock to help you.”

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READ MORE: Trudeau unveils $82B in aid for families, business amid coronavirus uncertainty

A spokesperson for Employment and Social Development Canada, the agency that oversees EI and other programs, said anyone having difficulty accessing the application system due to the uptick in demand should keep trying as the situation is “temporary.”

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“ESDC is prioritizing capacity to ensure critical service delivery requirements are met. Ongoing improvements are being made on a daily basis to ensure quality and timely service to Canadians,”  a spokesperson said.

Canada has announced an $82-billion suite of measures to assist workers and businesses amid the pandemic.

As part of those efforts, the government has proposed extending benefits to those who are not eligible for employment insurance, those who must self-isolate or workers caring for a family member.

READ MORE: Coronavirus — Trudeau may tap Armed Forces, industry to produce additional medical supplies

The pandemic has seen many businesses shut their doors, but one retailer said on Friday that it is ramping up hiring in order to respond to an increase in demand.

Walmart Canada says it will hire 10,000 more employees to work in its stores and distribution centres as it deals with issues related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

— With files from the Canadian Press