Within a week, nearly every aspect of Canadians’ lives have changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the number of cases crept upward, streets emptied. Any remaining events were cancelled. Many of us are now stuck at home from work and school in the name of social distancing, while those who must venture out do so on deserted roads, or on transit systems where everyone is standing two metres apart.
There have been changes with enormous implications, too. Our border is more or less closed, and our Parliament is suspended. Many of our provinces are in a state of emergency as our health system strains to keep up with an ever-increasing flow of sick patients and our manufacturing firepower mobilizes toward making medical equipment.
“There are people who are talking about historical echoes, whether it's wartime or the Great Depression,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Friday morning from outside the home where he remains in self-isolation after his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
“We're focused on doing what we need to do right now. We know that Canada has never faced a situation like this, and we will get through it together.”
Nationwide and region by region, here’s a roundup of the sweeping measures put in place this week, often at dizzying speed, as officials worked to slow the spread of COVID-19.
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- The border closed
On Monday, Trudeau announced Canada’s border would close to non-citizens who are not permanent residents, with the exception of U.S. citizens. He had also asked Canadians to avoid international travel and restricted flights landing from outside the country to four major airports.
On Wednesday, the border slammed shut more completely: all non-essential travel between Canada and the U.S. is no longer allowed. Trade lines are still open, however, and exceptions exist for air crew and other essential personnel.
- Economic bailout package
Canada’s economy is “on the brink of recession” amid the worsening pandemic, according to the Conference Board of Canada. The crisis has caused job losses nationwide and sent the global economy into a tailspin. After announcing plans last week to help Canadians who are struggling financially, Trudeau unveiled specifics on Wednesday.
The $82-billion emergency support package includes $27 billion of “direct support” to workers and businesses, along with $55 billion in tax deferrals. Though the federal government hasn’t released exact details, Trudeau said the package would also help workers who aren’t eligible for EI, although some are worried they’ll fall through the cracks.
Trudeau also said more measures are currently in the works — including a bailout for Canada’s oil and gas sector, which is facing financial catastrophe as the price of oil plummeted this week to just over $10 per barrel. (In January, the price of Western Canada Select crude was between $30 and $40 per barrel, a price that’s already considered low.)
- State of Emergency
Ontario had already cancelled schools last week and announced measures Monday to protect workers from losing jobs amid the pandemic. But the situation took on a new level of urgency early Tuesday morning when Premier Doug Ford officially declared a state of emergency, which gives provinces vast powers to control prices and restrict travel to and from certain areas, among other things.
The emergency declaration came with an order to close all bars, child-care centres, theatres, recreation centres and restaurants (except those doing takeout only) immediately. Essential services — such as grocery stores, public transit and public services — remain running. Gatherings of more than 50 people are also banned.
As of Thursday, Ontario’s provincial parks are also closed, following a similar move on the federal side.
- Bars and restaurants closed
This announcement is significant enough to deserve its own bullet point. The province asked bars and restaurants to shutter on Monday night, but made it a mandatory order the next day with the declaration of a state of emergency.
The order was issued the morning of St. Patrick’s Day, effectively shutting down revelry on one of the busiest days of the year for bars.
- First deaths
Though B.C. had recorded eight deaths from the novel coronavirus as of Thursday night, Ontario recorded its first and second deaths that appear linked to COVID-19 this week. The first was a 77-year-old man from Muskoka, while the other was a man in his 50s from Milton. Both had underlying health conditions.
Both men were diagnosed with COVID-19 after their deaths. Coroner’s investigations will confirm whether they happened to die from other causes while they had the virus, or if the virus is what killed them.
- State of emergency
In B.C. — where there are nearly as many cases as Ontario, many clustered in long-term care homes — officials triggered a state of emergency on Wednesday.
The day before, the province had suspended K-12 classes and declared a public health emergency (daycares remain open).
- Bars and gatherings over 50 shut down
Even before B.C. declared a state of emergency, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry ordered all establishments unable to maintain a distance of two metres between patrons to shutter. Bars, pubs and nightclubs in particular were ordered to shut down.
Restaurants can stay open for takeout. But even essential businesses that are allowed to remain running must maintain two-metre distancing, and all gatherings of 50 people or more are banned.
- State of emergency
The province at the heart of Canada’s oil and gas industry declared its state of emergency on Tuesday, shortly after Ontario and a few days after closing schools and daycares. The declaration barred Albertans from going to everything from museums and casinos to bingo halls and bars.
An Edmonton man in his 60s was the first in the province to die from COVID-19, officials announced Thursday.
- Restaurants restricted, so are gatherings of 50 or more
All sit-down eateries and coffee shops are now restricted to half-capacity or 50 people, whichever number is lower. Takeout and drive-thru are allowed.
The move came as part of the emergency declaration. Also mandated: no more gatherings or 50 or more, a ban that applies even to weddings and funerals.
- State of emergency
Saskatchewan declared a state of emergency on Wednesday. It also restricted gatherings of 50 or more.
Schools are closed and daycares are not. However, Premier Scott Moe told parents to prepare for restrictions on daycares soon.
- Bars open for now
Saskatchewan is one of the few jurisdictions in Canada where you can still get a drink at a bar. Restaurants and bars are still operating, but on reduced capacity — 50 people or 50 per cent of maximum, whichever is lower.
Establishments in the Prairie province can also now sell alcohol to be consumed offsite.
- The latest state of emergency
Manitoba joined most of the other provinces Friday in calling a state of emergency. The move limits gatherings to 50 people or less, and requires retail businesses that remain open to maintain a distance of two metres between patrons.
All gyms and gaming centres are now required to close. And the social-distancing measures also apply to transit users. The province has threatened individuals who disobey the orders with maximum penalties of six months in jail or $50,000 for individuals.
- Bars and restaurants at reduced capacity
Shows don’t necessarily need to be cancelled in Manitoba. Bars, restaurants and live venues can continue to stay open, but are limited to either 50 people or half-capacity, whichever is smaller.
- A province shut down
Quebec was the first province to declare a state of emergency on March 12. And this week, that state of lockdown continued — schools are closed, gatherings of over 250 are banned and visits to long-term care homes and hospitals are prohibited.
Bars are closed, while restaurants can operate at half-capacity with social-distancing enforced. Bars, movie theatres, ski hills, pools and gyms have also been ordered to shutter.
- Province’s first death
Quebec recorded its first death linked to COVID-19 on Wednesday. The patient who died was an elderly woman from northeast of Montreal who was already in poor health.
“If we needed proof of the gravity of the situation, we have it now,” said Premier François Legault.
- Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is the last remaining province or territory not to declare a state of emergency. So far, it has identified 15 cases of COVID-19.
The province has taken other measures, however: hospital visits are restricted, schools are shut down, gatherings must not be more than 50 people, and salons, spas, tattoo shops, barbershops and similar establishments are closed. Restaurants and bars were also ordered to close on Tuesday.
- New Brunswick
New Brunswick declared its state of emergency on Thursday. It also introduced the strictest cap on gatherings, allowing no more than 10 people.
Bars and restaurants are closed, save takeout. All non-essential businesses have been ordered to close as well, along with schools.
- Prince Edward Island
PEI declared a state of emergency Monday, but it’s the only province that hasn’t restricted gatherings.
Schools, restaurants, bars and daycares are closed. Liquor stores and cannabis stores are also shuttered, through private liquor stores and breweries are allowed to stay open for now. Physiology and dental clinics have also temporarily shut down.
- Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador called a public health emergency on Thursday, threatening rule-breakers with fines. Gatherings are restricted to 50 people and anyone returning from outside the country must self-isolate for 14 days.
Gyms, movie theatres, bars and arenas are now ordered to close. Restaurants, however, are allowed to stay open at half-capacity.
Nunavut declared a state of emergency Thursday. It hasn’t restricted gatherings but has ordered the closure of schools, daycares, bars and restaurants.
Inuit organizations have closed their doors. And after the province asked people from outside the territory not to travel there, one community blocked the road to a gold mine Thursday to prevent workers from entering and potentially bringing COVID-19 to the area.
- The Yukon
The Yukon also declared a public health emergency Thursday, restricting gatherings to fewer than 50 people and closing schools, public recreation facilities and libraries. Hospital visits are also restricted.
The territory has no confirmed cases of COVID-19 so far. Daycares, restaurants and bars remain open.
- The Northwest Territories
The NWT declared a state of emergency on Thursday but remains relatively open, compared to other Canadian jurisdictions. Gatherings aren’t restricted, and daycares and bars all remain open, though the territory has recommended schools be closed.
There are no confirmed cases in the territory.
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