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Trudeau says coronavirus progress positive as provinces mull slowly reopening

Click to play video 'Pressure builds for plans to reopen Ontario economy' Pressure builds for plans to reopen Ontario economy
Premier Doug Ford said a framework is in the final stages of planning to reopen Ontario's economy gradually, but he also warned once that process starts the toll COVID-19 is taking on the province will continue. Travis Dhanraj reports – Apr 21, 2020

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.

The country’s largest province, for example, 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.

READ MORE: Ontario says COVID-19 community cases peaked. What does that mean for Canada?

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.

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Prime Minister Justin 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.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus outbreak: N.S. chief public health officer says not to ignore other medical needs unrelated to COVID-19' Coronavirus outbreak: N.S. chief public health officer says not to ignore other medical needs unrelated to COVID-19
Coronavirus outbreak: N.S. chief public health officer says not to ignore other medical needs unrelated to COVID-19 – Apr 21, 2020

Regardless, the financial fallout of the anti-COVID measures — social isolation and the shut down of non-essential commercial activities — has been profound. Trudeau, who has already announced more than $100 billion in various forms of assistance, offered more financial supports on Wednesday.

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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.

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“As young people what you’re going through matters,” Trudeau said. “We want to make sure that you will be OK.”

READ MORE: Trudeau announces $9B aid for students, including monthly benefit

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 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.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus outbreak: Toronto mayor says city’s economy affects provincial, national economies' Coronavirus outbreak: Toronto mayor says city’s economy affects provincial, national economies
Coronavirus outbreak: Toronto mayor says city’s economy affects provincial, national economies – Apr 21, 2020

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.

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Trudeau also said the closure of the Canada-U.S. border would stay in place until May 21st at least.

—With files from Canadian Press reporters across the country.

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