Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered his daily briefing from Rideau College on the coronavirus outbreak. The following is the transcript of his remarks, in English, for March 20, 2020.
We’re in discussion with Canadian airlines to help Canadians stranded abroad come home. We will have more details to share but the first flight will be picking up Canadians from Morocco this weekend.
As I announced on Wednesday, Canada and the United States have agreed to stop non-essential travel specifically for tourism and recreation. Trade and commerce will continue. This takes effect at midnight tonight and Minister Blair will give more details tonight.
Further. today, Canada and the United States are announcing a reciprocal arrangement where we will be returning irregular migrants who attempt to cross anywhere at the Canada-U.S. border.
Doctors and nurses in retirement have come in to help in the hospitals, and people administering the screening tests and researchers looking for a solution always are working longer hours. The important thing is that people follow the instructions from our health officials — frequent handwashing, working from home, limiting travel in order to protect our health and the health of others. But it’s not only individuals who want to help their communities.
(speaking in French) Businesses as well are stepping up. I think for example of grocery stores that are opening an hour earlier to serve the most vulnerable Canadians, or manufacturing companies that are asking what they can do to help. Just last week, a number of companies right across the country contacted our government to offer their assistance. I want to thank them for their solidarity and their generosity.
(speaking in English) This week, many businesses put their hand up and asked us what they can do. So today we are announcing a new strategy that will make it easier for companies to help out during this critical time. We are launching Canada’s plan to mobilize industry to fight COVID-19 to ensure that we can quickly produce here in Canada the things we need.
This initiative will help companies that are already making things like masks, ventilators and hand sanitizer to massively scale up production. It will also provide support to those who want to retool their manufacturing facilities to contribute to this fight.
For example, the Auto Parts Manufacturer’s Association reached out to us asking how they could help. Our health care professionals really need support so our government will help these companies shift production from auto parts to medical supplies.
We are also close to reaching agreements with several other companies including Thornhill Medical, Medicom and Spartan Bioscience.
Minister Bains and Minister Anand will have more to say on this later today.
Our government is also creating new, innovative procurement streams to allow more businesses to develop solutions and products Canadians need because of COVID-19. We will expedite these streams so firms can get to work quickly and these products are ready to use as soon as possible.
Canada is home to some of the best innovators in the world and with this new initiative we will harness their talent and know-how to get through these challenging times.
Over the past week, Service Canada and many government agencies have received a historic number of calls from concerned Canadians. We have received over 500,000 applications so far this week, compared to just under 27,000 applications for the same week last year.
I know people are anxious to get the help they deserve and our government is working as fast as possible to support them. This is, of course, an unprecedented situation and it’s put a lot of pressure on our system. But we’re on it. Thousands of public servants are working around the clock to help you.
I know this past week has been hard on people for many reasons. Working at home while the kids are running around. Not being able to visit your parents at their nursing home, or hanging out with your friends. It can take its toll.
But it is in these challenging times that we also see what we’re made of. This past week, no mattter how difficult, was further proof that Canadians are generous kind and compassionate, and that should give us all hope.
We all understand our responsibility as Canadians. We have to do the right thing, whether it’s working from home or practising social distancing, to protect our nurses, doctors and everyone who works in our health-care system.
To deal with this crisis, we need everyone—citizens, businesses and governments—to come together and do their part. And that is what we’ve seen, right across the country.
I want to thank all the workers who are stepping up and all the companies who are making things our country needs. If you own a business and are wondering what you can do, reach out. We need your help. Canadians need your help.
If you own a business and you’re wondering what you can do, reach out. We need your help; Canadians need your help. And our government is ready to work with you to maximize your impact.
I will end this morning by addressing all those celebrating Nowruz today and this past week. This is usually a time when friends and families gather around the Haft-Sin table and share a festive meal. But this year is a bit different. To the many families who’ve been spending their first Nowruz without loved ones lost in the Ukraine International Airlines tragedy, know that all Canadians mourn with you. I also know that many have had to postpone festivities because of COVID-19, and I want to thank you for that as well.
Social distancing is crucial in limiting the spread of the virus, and we do this now—soon, we will be able to celebrate together. In the meantime, I want to wish you all a very Happy New Year, Nowruz etan Pirouz, and I look forward to marking the occasion with you again in the future.
Once again thank you for being here.