Canada has put a call out for volunteers to support frontline healthcare workers and is offering full-time jobs to Canadian Forces reservists, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced during an update to the country’s coronavirus response on Sunday.
“For those of you with specialized skills looking to help our frontline workers, we do want to hear from you,” said Trudeau, who spoke to reporters from Rideau Cottage where he is self-isolating.
According to the prime minister, Health Canada will be building “an inventory of specialized work volunteers” that provinces and territories can draw on, and that some of the work may include tracking COVID-19 cases and tracing contacts.
Trudeau also said that reservists in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) would also be offered full-time jobs over the coming months, with the same pay and benefits as regular enlisted members.
“Bolstering the military’s ranks will help offset some of the economic consequences of COVID-19 and ensure that our communities are well-supported,” Trudeau said.
The CAF said Canada has 36,381 reservists, which includes reserve members and Rangers, as of March 30. An additional 67,492 members made up the rest of Canada’s military forces.
Volunteer applications will be open until at least April 24, while reservists across the country are going to be contacted directly by the Canadian government.
Trudeau also announced details for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which offers Canadians who’ve lost their jobs over the COVID-19 pandemic cash payments of $2,000 a month.
Applications will be accepted starting Monday, and the money will take three to five days to arrive via direct deposit or 10 days by mail.
Last week, the federal government announced that at least 2.1 million Canadians who have applied for employment insurance benefits since March 15 will be moved to the CERB, potentially increasing payouts for some EI recipients, or reducing it for those receiving the maximum insurance amount — $573 — to $500 weekly.
On Saturday, Trudeau announced “millions” of medical masks would be arriving in Canada from China within 48 hours.
Ottawa is expecting between seven and eight million surgical masks. Included in that order are supplies for hard-hit Quebec.
Canada has also leased a warehouse in China to collect and distribute additional supplies “as quickly as possible,” he said.
According to Trudeau, officials are working “day and night” to secure additional, desperately needed personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline workers.
And, while Canada continues to source the PPE from international suppliers, Trudeau said the government is also working with domestic manufacturers.
The prime minister’s comments came a day after U.S. President Donald Trump asked Minnesota-based company 3M to stop exporting N95 masks to Canada.
Asked about the move, Trudeau said the dialogue was ongoing with U.S. officials, and that he planned to speak with Trump.
“We are continuing to engage in constructive discussions with different levels within the administration to highlight that the U.S. will be hurting itself as much as Canada will be hurting if we see an interruption of essential goods and services flow back and forth across the border,” he said. “We continue to demonstrate that this is a good thing for both of our countries and we look to continue to ensure that essential supplies get across the border.”
Trudeau said, though, that Canada was not planning any retaliatory measures against the U.S.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, by 5 p.m. ET on Saturday, more than 13,800 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in Canada.
Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, Canada’s chief medical officer, Dr. Theresa Tam said currently Canada’s healthcare system is not overwhelmed by serious cases of COVID-19, but cautioned that the situation could change at any time.
The number of people killed by the coronavirus in Canada has jumped by just over 20 per cent to 258 in a day, Reuters reported on Sunday.
By 11:05 eastern time (1505 GMT) Sunday, the number of those diagnosed with the coronavirus had risen by almost 12 per cent to 14,426, the public health agency said.
The respective figures on Saturday were 214 deaths and 12,924 positive diagnoses.
Tam urged Canadians to continue practising physical distancing, and to heed the advice of medical authorities.
— With files by Reuters