It has been three weeks into lockdown here in Toronto. Life, as we knew, has changed completely. Did anyone ever imagine that the whole world will be together in this crisis? That all countries, all people will face the same enemy? That what is happening in other countries, countries that are far away from us, would have such a strong impact on our moods, routine and generally, the way we think, act, feel and live? Nothing has changed. Yet everything has changed.
Today has been more disturbing. I woke up to news stories on a probable number of deaths due to COVID in Canada. It is a projection modelling by Canadian public health officials. The projection notes, “In a best-case scenario, Canada’s total COVID-19 deaths can range from 11,000 to 22,000.”
Which is scary and heartbreaking. Even though we are reading about deaths every day in countries around the world, it still hurts you to read about deaths. And when it is about what might happen in Canada, it is even more devastating.
In their projection modelling, the public health officials have said that in a best-case scenario, Canada’s total COVID-19 deaths can range from 11,000 to 22,000, according to this projection modelling. That figure requires keeping the spread of infections to just 2.5 to five percent of Canadians. Based on this modelling, to get there, Canada will have to keep a high level of physical distancing measures in place for a while. In the bad scenarios, where infections reach up to 70 to 80 percent of the population, deaths go well over 300,000.
It is difficult to fathom that we are doing projections about deaths due to one single cause, in a short period of time? We have read how many deaths diabetes might cause the world over. Or cancer, for that matter. However, these deaths were not projected to happen within weeks or months. They were over the years or decades.
Since COVID-19 entered our world, our lives have changed rapidly. It is a health and economic crisis. Many levels of government have declared a state of emergency, implementing drastic regulations around everyday living.
The Canadian government has been very responsive and has implemented several actions to reduce COVID-19’s effect on its people.
There are restrictions on gatherings an, venturing out of home. Ongoing out of their homes only for necessary chores such as medical appointments or grocery purchase, of not mixing with people outside their own families, and if they do have to go out, keeping a distance of at least two meters from each other. Canadians by and large have followed the guidance by their governments. Unfortunately, it seems Corona is not paying any attention to these actions.
COVID-19 is not only a health issue but an economic one too. Canada has three levels of government; local, provincial and federal. We are fortunate to have all three levels of government acting responsibly and keeping us updated. They are providing not only health care support but also financial support to their people.
Here are some initiatives are taken by the governments to combat the virus and help people financially.
March break in Ontario public schools has continued till further notice. The private schools have also been closed and all events and activities are cancelled till further notice. Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) that was been running to almost full capacity till recently has reduced its schedules a bit. Commuters have been warned to wear masks and keep distance even inside the subway or the bus.
The Mayor of The City of Toronto John Tory signed two emergency orders regulating physical distancing in The City of Toronto Parks and public squares. Fines for violating a provincial order under the Emergency Measures Act can range from $750 to $100,000, including up to one year in jail.
After 4 months of severe winter, Canadians were looking forward to spring and summer, when they could go for a walk or a hike. Coronavirus has robbed them of these little pleasures. During this time, according to the City of Toronto, park and ravine green spaces remain accessible, but all amenities within City parks are closed. Physical distancing in City parks and public squares is a must.
Spring and summer are also the time when the farmers’ markets and other community events happen every weekend. They too are closed now.
There is also a grace period in effect to pay the City of Toronto property tax, water and solid waste utility bill payments for all residents and businesses.
At Provincial Level
At the provincial level, the Ontario government has closed all bars and restaurants, except those providing takeout and food delivery. So are all indoor recreational programs, public libraries, private schools, licensed child care centres, movie cinemas and theatres and concert venues, you name it and they are closed.
Additionally, all organized public events of over 5 people, including weddings, social gatherings and communal services within places of worship are prohibited.
For students, the province of Ontario is providing six months of Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loan and interest accrual relief for students.
Cities in the Region of Peel have also announced changes to property taxes and transit for its residents. Brampton and Mississauga have both announced free transit until social distancing is lifted by the region.
From the Federal Government
The federal government has introduced Canada Emergency Response Benefit, CERB. It is a new measure that covers out of work workers who are not eligible for EI. It is a benefit of $2,000 for a 4-week period which can be renewed for further 4-week periods.
The federal government has extended its tax filing and the tax payment deadline to June 1 and to September 1, respectively. In addition to the GST benefit for eligible families, there is a top-up of $300 per child under the Canada Child Benefit.
There is a relief for students as well. The Government of Canada has announced its plan to pause the repayment of Canada Student Loans and Canada Apprentice Loans until September 30, 2020, with no accrual of interest.
Canadian employees have always had the benefit of Employment Insurance. During this COVID-crisis time, there is a need to hasten the processing time. In order to do so, the government has made two important changes such as doing away a doctor’s note that was required in order to apply for sick benefits and waiving off the normal 1-week EI waiting period.
Status of Employment during COVID-19
Statistics Canada says the economy lost 1,011,000 jobs in March as the COVID-19 crisis began to take hold. The unemployment rate rose to 7.8 percent.
In its March Labour Force Survey (LFS) survey, it says that the results reflect labour market conditions when a sequence of unprecedented government interventions related to COVID-19 had been put in place. These interventions resulted in a dramatic slowdown in economic activity and a sudden shock to the Canadian labour market says Statistics Canada.
According to its report, employment fell by more than one million in March (-1,011,000 or -5.3%). The employment rate fell 3.3 percentage points to 58.5%, the lowest rate since April 1997. COVID-19 has effectively brought the total number of Canadians who were affected by either job loss or reduced hours to 3.1 million.
The loss of jobs during COVID-19 is unprecedented. It has not been a good time or topic to write. However write we must, even if it is to keep a journal. And so here we are. Be safe and do not venture outside unless it is absolutely necessary. Also check in on your neighbours, the elderly and those living alone.
This article is a collection of the author’s thoughts and resources that have been collected from several online resources over the last three weeks. The list of initiatives and support that the governments have announced is curated from these online resources. This by no means should be considered as the accurate and complete resource of supports that Canadians are provided by their government. Here is the credit to original resources, from where the information in the article is taken. You may also please check the following links to know more: https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/phac-aspc/documents/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/using-data-modelling-inform-eng.pdf ; https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/