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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Feds issue 140 million rapid tests to provinces, territories to help fight spread of COVID-19

Wednesday, January 05, 2022 @ 4:33 PM | By Amanda Jerome

On Jan. 5, the federal government announced that 140 million rapid tests would be sent to the provinces and territories to help fight the surge of the omicron variant. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadians who have not yet been vaccinated to please do so to “keep our health systems from getting overwhelmed.”

In a press conference, Minister of Health, Jean-Yves Duclos, said “unfortunately, with the Omicron variant spreading fast across the country, this is not the new year we were all hoping for. But despite it all, there are many reasons for us to be hopeful and optimistic about the future.”

“Let’s be clear: January 2022 is not March 2020,” he stressed, noting that the government has “made significant progress, and we’re continuing to add resources and tools to help protect and support Canadians.”

“Because of our early planning and successful work to procure vaccines we are now able the weather the Omicron variant in a much stronger position,” he added.

Duclos emphasized that rapid antigen tests are “proving an extremely important tool in helping Canadians reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

“Before December 2021, our government delivered 85 million of these tests to provinces and territories. In December 2021 only, an additional 35 million tests were delivered to our provincial and territorial colleagues,” he noted.

“Today, I’m pleased to confirm that an additional 140 million rapid tests will be delivered to provinces and territories in the month of January. As requested by our provincial and territorial colleagues, these tests will be allocated to the provinces and territories on a per capita basis,” he explained.

Duclos also noted that “almost 80 per cent of all Canadians of all ages were fully vaccinated in 2021.”

“Booster shots are rolling out across the country with more than seven million boosters administered across the country to date. Finally, we’re also protecting our children. More than 40 per cent of kids age 5 to 11 have already received one dose of vaccine. This month alone, we expect to have enough supply in our country for all eligible children to receive both doses. We would be in a very different position right now if we didn’t have such a high vaccination rate,” he said.

Duclos stressed that “our collective job now is simple: it is to vaccinate unvaccinated populations, to continue to deliver booster shots and continue vaccinating our kids.”

“Over the past few weeks all levels of government have had to make tough choices to protect public health and to protect our health-care system. The Canadian government has an important role to play in this regard,” he said, noting that last month the federal government “implemented new measures at the border to slow the arrival of the Omicron variant, including advising Canadians to avoid non-essential travel.”

“Our government is also temporarily expanding the eligibility of several support programs to help those impacted by new public health restrictions driven by the Omicron surge,” he added.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Trudeau said he understood that “people are frustrated,” but stressed that “from the beginning, we said we’d have your backs and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

“This is about keeping you safe, keeping our health workers safe, and getting back, as quickly as possible, to the things we love,” he explained.

“Two years into this pandemic, however, one thing has changed from those first early months: Canadians themselves. You know what we need to do. You know how to keep your loved ones safe. And more importantly, you know how to keep our health systems from getting overwhelmed,” he said, noting that “we have to hunker down, we have to pull together.”

“We’re looking at a better spring as long as we keep all doing our part,” he said.

The prime minister stressed that “we now have enough vaccines in the country for everyone.”

“It’s never too late to get vaccinated,” he said, encouraging people who have not been vaccinated to please do so.

“That’s how we keep our health systems from getting overwhelmed. That’s how we minimize the impact of COVID on our society, on our economy, on our neighbours, on our front-line workers,” he said of the vaccines.

Trudeau also noted that the federal government is there to help the provinces and territories facing “the most difficulty” noting that 200 members of the Canadian Armed Forces will be deployed to Quebec vaccination clinics.

“We will continue to support business and workers. We will maintain measures to help you if you need them. In particular, I’d like to highlight the wage subsidy. This subsidy is there to maintain a tether between you and your job, so that you may continue to pay for your bills, to put groceries in your fridge, and you will also know that your connection to your job is maintained,” he added.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Chrystia Freeland, noted that before the holidays in December, the government “released an economic and fiscal update that included significant investments, including the purchase of 180 million rapid tests and a $2 billion investment in therapeutics.”

“These were to support our collective effort to finish the fight against COVID and to handle the Omicron surge,” she explained, noting that in October, the government launched the “targeted aid program for Canadians and Canadian businesses, including a provision for a renewal of the wage subsidy and the rent assistance in the case of a lockdown.”

“These programs came into effect in December when Bill C-2 entered into effect. Because of new restrictions put in place to fight Omicron across the country, we also decided to temporarily expand the definition of ‘lockdown’ to help more Canadians and to make sure no business or employee is left behind,” she added.

Freeland noted that in recent weeks “most parts of the country have announced new lockdowns or other public health restrictions” and “many of these restrictions have an impact on people’s jobs and their businesses.”

“I’d like today to reassure Canadians by reminding them that the federal government has made sure that economic support is available to you if you need it,” she stressed.

“Last week, applications opened for the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit. If you are a worker in a part of the country that is locked down or subject to 50 per cent capacity restrictions, and if you have lost 50 per cent or more of your income as a direct result of those restrictions, you can be eligible to receive $300 a week,” she said.

“We also know that businesses, especially small businesses, need support. That’s why we have in place the local lockdown program, which will provide wage and rent subsidy support of up to 75 per cent to employers who have had to reduce the capacity of their main business by 50 per cent or more,” she added.

Freeland also reminded businesses that the government has “temporarily lowered the revenue decline threshold from 40 per cent to 25 per cent.”

“There is also further rent support of an additional 25 per cent that’s available for businesses subject to a full lockdown,” she explained, noting that the “expanded eligibility for both the wage support and the rent support runs from December 19 through to February 12.”

“Also, as a reminder, this support is paid for by taxpayers and is meant for businesses to support their workers to get through the pandemic,” she added.

Freeland stressed that every business “that chooses to increase renumeration to its CEOs in comparison to 2019 will no longer be eligible for this support. Also, all businesses that paid dividends while collecting this benefit will become ineligible.”

“We require businesses who benefit from these programs to be respectful of the eligibility criteria,” she emphasized.

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