COVID-19:  Cross country update (May 7, 2020)

7 mai 2020

( Disponible en anglais seulement )

Federal

The Government of Canada announced the following measures:

Wage Boost for Essential Workers

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today that all provinces and territories have confirmed, or are in the process of confirming, plans to cost share wage top-ups for their essential workers.  The Government of Canada will provide up to $3 billion in support to increase the wages of low-income essential workers.  Each province or territory will determine which workers would be eligible for support, and how much support they will receive.

Tariff Relief for Importers of Certain Medical Goods

The government is waiving tariffs on certain medical goods, including personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks and gloves. This will reduce the cost of imported PPE for Canadian businesses, which otherwise would face tariffs of up to 18% in some instances.  This tariff relief will remain in place for as long as necessary to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

 

British Columbia

The Government of British Columbia announced the following measures:

Surgical Renewal Plan

On March 16, non-urgent scheduled surgeries were postponed to prepare B.C.’s health-care system for a potential surge of COVID-19 patients.  By May 18, 2020, an estimated 30,000 non-urgent scheduled surgeries will have either been postponed or left on a waitlist due to COVID-19.  A further 24,000 patients could also be without a referral to a waitlist.

To deal with this backlog, the B.C. Government is launching an extensive Surgical Renewal Plan that will include calling patients, adding new capacity, and hiring and training staff.  The goal is to clear the existing COVID-19 backlog in the next 17 to 24 months.  Surgeries are expected to resume by May 18.

 

Alberta

The Government of Alberta announced the following measures:

Food Processing Plants

Public health officials, Occupational Health and Safety, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and others are working together to protect worker safety at Alberta’s food processing plants and to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

Meat processing facilities in Alberta are expected to implement safety controls that meet requirements identified by Alberta Health Services, Occupational Health and Safety legislation and Chief Medical Officer of Health orders, such as:

  • staff temperature check before entering the facility;
  • providing face masks and other personal protective equipment to employees to be worn at all times;
  • enhanced cleaning and sanitizing practices;
  • staggered breaks and shift flexibility;
  • prohibiting unnecessary visitors at the facility;
  • increasing distance between employees and installing screening between individual employee stations;
  • vehicles entering the plant gate cannot have more than two passengers;
  • installing numerous physical barriers throughout the facility (for example, Plexiglas partitions);
  • reconfiguring lunchrooms and locker rooms to comply with physical distancing requirements;
  • installing additional sink(s) and sanitization stations;
  • reconfiguring various entrances / egress points to control the flow of foot traffic; and
  • updating procedures and training materials.

Alberta Health Services and Occupational Health and Safety are visiting facilities regularly to ensure control measures are implemented and to provide ongoing advice and support to the workers and employers.

Child Care Sector Relief

Once child care centres reopen, they will be required to adhere to public health guidelines developed by Children’s Services and Alberta Health.  Up to $17.8 million in grants will be provided to child care centres and approved family day home agencies to ensure they are ready to safely restart.  There will be a phased approach for these supports:

  • Phase 1 – $6.7 million:  Centres will immediately receive a one-time grant to cover up to 25% of overhead costs like rent and utilities. This accounts for the remaining portion of expenses not covered by funding under federal programs.
  • Phase 2 – $3.2 million:  Upon reopening, centres will receive a grant for cleaning and sanitation supplies to adhere to public health guidelines, as well as to assist with staff recruitment and training.
  • Phase 3 – $6.9 million:  After three months of being open, centres will potentially receive a third grant to offset deferred bills and to address unforeseen operational issues. This will be based on an assessment of other federal and provincial support programs.

Approved family day home agencies will also be able to access funding, up to $1 million total, to support current operations and supplies and equipment to adhere to public health guidelines.

Expanded List of COVID-19 Symptoms

Testing for COVID-19 in Alberta is available to any person exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, as well as asymptomatic close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases and asymptomatic workers and residents at outbreak sites.  The list of COVID-19 symptoms has been expanded and now includes:

  • Fever*
  • Cough (new cough or worsening chronic cough)*
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing (new or worsening)*
  • Runny nose*
  • Stuffy nose
  • Sore throat*
  • Painful swallowing
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Muscle or joint aches
  • Feeling unwell in general, or new fatigue or severe exhaustion
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or unexplained loss of appetite)
  • Loss of sense of smell or taste
  • Conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye

Anyone with a fever, cough, shortness of breath, runny nose or sore throat is legally required to isolate for at least 10 days from the start of symptoms or until they resolve, whichever is longer.  Anyone with any of the other symptoms is advised to stay home and minimize contact with others until symptoms resolve.

People with any of the above noted symptoms can receive a test by either calling Health Link 811 or completing one of these assessments: COVID-19 self-assessment for Albertans or COVID-19 self-assessment for healthcare and shelter workers, enforcement personnel and first responders.

 

Saskatchewan

The Government of Saskatchewan announced the following measures:

Aid to Businesses and Municipalities

On May 6, Premier Scott Moe announced that the Province would be adding $2 billion in capital spending over the next two years to aid businesses and municipalities following the economic fallout from COVID-19.  This investment is in addition to the $5.5 billion that was announced by the government on March 18.

The new capital spending will be invested into schools, hospitals, highways, municipal infrastructure projects and public utility enhancements and is intended to create jobs and encourage private sector development.

As part of the Province’s aid to municipalities, it was announced today that Municipal Revenue Sharing (MRS) will be fast tracked for the 2020-21 year.  All MRS funds will be paid in full directly to all compliant Saskatchewan municipalities in June, rather than in installments throughout the year.  For more information on the Municipal Revenue Sharing program, and distribution of funds by community, please refer to the Government of Saskatchewan website.

Education

Today, it was announced that in-class learning has been suspended until September 2020. Saskatchewan Education’s Response Planning Team encourages Saskatchewan’s education community to continue to take part in remote learning activities offered by their teachers until the end of the school year.

For those students graduating this year, school divisions are working with graduates and staff to consider virtual graduation ceremonies and possible postponements, as public health orders currently prevent more than 10 people from gathering together.

 

Manitoba

The Government of Manitoba announced the following measures:

Infrastructure Support

Today, Premier Brian Pallister announced that the Province is increasing infrastructure investments by an additional $500 million as part of the Manitoba Restart Program, an economic stimulus package intended to help restart Manitoba’s economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The $500-million investment will expand on the already-planned infrastructure investments of $3 billion over the next two years.

The Manitoba Restart Program will include work in the following areas:

  • water and sewage projects through the Municipal Water Services Board;
  • road and highway resurfacing and repairs;
  • bridge repairs;
  • municipal infrastructure priorities; and
  • potential new cost-sharing construction projects with other levels of government if agreements can be reached.

 

Ontario

The Government of Ontario announced the following measures:

Resuming Scheduled Surgeries

Today, detail was provided on the comprehensive framework developed by the Province to help hospitals assess their readiness and begin planning for the gradual resumption of scheduled surgeries and procedures, while maintaining capacity to respond to COVID-19.

Timelines will vary from hospital to hospital and be conditional on approval by regional oversight tables involved with planning and coordinating Ontario’s response to COVID-19.  The framework provides clear criteria that must be met before hospitals can resume scheduled surgeries, including ensuring that the hospital and its region have the following:

  • A stable number of COVID-19 cases;
  • A stable supply of personal protective equipment;
  • A stable supply of medications;
  • An adequate capacity of inpatient and intensive care unit beds;
  • An adequate capacity of health human resources; and
  • The availability of post-acute care outside the hospital that would be required to support patients after discharge.

As a first step, hospitals will need to assess if there is adequate staffing, equipment and other resources to resume scheduled care.  This assessment will be revisited on a weekly basis to reflect changing needs and requirements, including responding to any COVID-19 surges that may occur locally.

The framework also sets out the criteria for prioritizing surgeries including:

  • A patient’s condition;
  • The type of procedure a patient requires and whether options for non-operative treatments exist;
  • The associated risks of delaying a patient’s surgery; and
  • The resources required in terms of personal protective equipment, medications, intensive care unit beds, and other care requirements needed after an operation.

 

Quebec

The Government of Quebec announced the following measures:

On May 7:

  • the government announced another week of deferral for the opening of non-priority businesses and schools in the Greater Montreal to May 25, which date is subject to further revision if the shortage of manpower in the health sector does not improve;
  • Premier François Legault announced a new bonus of up to $1,000, effective immediately, to promote the recruitment and retention of workers in the various healthcare settings that are experiencing difficulties related to COVID-19. The bonus will be offered to full-time workers only;
  • the government authorized the directors of correctional facilities to allow a temporary absence for medical purposes to an inmate serving a prison sentence of less than two years in order to protect his or her health and that of other inmates and personnel when certain conditions are met;
  • the government requested the suspension of every procedure that is part of the decision-making process of a municipal body and that involves the movement or gathering of citizens; and
  • Montreal extended the state of emergency on its territory until May 11.

On May 6, the Tribunal administrative du travail extended the cancellations of all hearings and conciliation sessions, with the exception of urgent cases, until June 5 inclusively.  Please visit the Tribunal administratif du travail website for more information.

__________

Le gouvernement du Québec a annoncé les mesures suivantes :

Le 7 mai:

  • le gouvernement a annoncé le report d’une autre semaine de l’ouverture des commerces non prioritaires et des écoles dans le Grand Montréal soit au 25 mai prochain. Cette date est sujette à une nouvelle révision si la situation de la pénurie de main d’œuvre dans le secteur de la santé ne s’améliore pa;
  • le premier ministre François Legault a annoncé dans son point de presse qu’une nouvelle prime allant jusqu’à 1000$ est offerte dès maintenant pour favoriser le recrutement et la rétention des travailleurs dans les milieux de santé vivant des difficultés reliées à la COVID-19. La prime en question sera offerte aux travailleurs à temps plein seulement;
  • le gouvernement a autorisé par arrêté ministériel les directeurs d’un établissement de détention à permettre une sortie temporaire à des fins médicales à une personne qui purge une peine d’emprisonnement de moins de deux ans dans le but de protéger sa santé ou celle des autres détenus et du personnel lorsqu’elle satisfait à certains critères précis;
  • le gouvernement a demandé la suspension de toute procédure qui fait partie du processus décisionnel d’un organisme municipal et qui implique le déplacement ou le rassemblement de citoyens; et
  • l’agglomération de Montréal a renouvelé l’état d’urgence jusqu’au 11 mai sur l’ensemble de son territoire.

Le 6 mai, le Tribunal administratif du travail a prolongé les annulations de toutes les audiences et séances de conciliations à l’exception des cas urgents jusqu’au 5 juin inclusivement. Pour plus d’information : Tribunal administratif du travail.

 

Nova Scotia

The Government of Nova Scotia announced the following measures:

On May 7, the government announced the Essential Health Care Workers Program which will see health-care workers receive a bonus of up to $2,000 after a four-month period, beginning March 13.  It includes eligible employees at the Nova Scotia Health Authority, IWK Health Centre and in long-term care, home care and in-home support and emergency health services.  Employees who volunteered to be redeployed to work at a facility experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak will also receive this benefit.  Further details include:

  • the province will contribute $13.4 million, with the federal government contribution being $80.5 million;
  • the program will apply to full-time, part-time and casual workers as well as cleaning staff;
  • eligible health-care employees who work during the pandemic can receive the benefit, and employees will need to work during all four months to receive the maximum $2,000;
  • those who work during the four months but are placed on isolation, quarantine or COVID-19 sick leave are also eligible; and
  • the first public health measures related to COVID-19 were announced March 13.

 

Prince Edward Island

The Government of Prince Edward Island announced the following measures:

Support for Essential Workers

Today, Minister of Finance Darlene Compton announced the $16.7 million COVID-19 Incentive to Support Essential Workers.  This temporary wage top-up program is for Island workers employed by any business or organization, including for-profit, non-profit or other entities providing essential services, as defined by the Prince Edward Island Chief Public Health Office.  Essential workers who have been working through the pandemic and make less than $3,000 per four-week period will receive a one-time payment of $1,000 through their employers.  Approximately 17,000 Islanders will benefit from this incentive.

Fishing and Aquaculture Industries

Two new program to help impacted fishers have been announced.  The first is the Prince Edward Island Fish Emergency Loan Program, a targeted loan portfolio offered by Finance PEI and the PEI Credit Unions, which will provide loans up to $25,000 to Islander harvesters at 4% interest over a five-year term.  The principal will be deferred for the first 18 months.  In addition, the Department of Fisheries and Communities will pay interest on behalf of the borrower for the first 18 months.

The second is the Interest Relief Program, which will support fish harvesters with up to 12 months of interest relief and service debt costs on a maximum of $250 million at an average interest rate of 5%.  Fish harvesters that can demonstrate a 30% or more decrease in fish-related revenues for the 2020 fishing season will be eligible.

Small Business Supports

Minister of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture Matthew MacKay announced the COVID-19 Workspace Adaption Assistance Fund to help small businesses purchase and install protective measures such as plexiglass dividers or handwashing stations to safeguard employees and customers.  Businesses can receive up to $2,000 and the program will be retroactive to March 16th to support businesses that have already put measures in place to operate safely.

 

Miller Thomson is closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation to ensure that we provide our clients with appropriate support in this rapidly changing environment. For articles, information updates and firm developments, please visit our COVID-19 Resources page.

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