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A timeline of Canadian COVID-19 developments

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau started the week off by announcing a number of Canada-wide COVID-19 measures, a pace of federal announcements that ramped up not long after he went into isolation March 12. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

Jan. 25, 2020

  • Canada records first “presumptive positive” case in Ontario, a man in his 50s who fell ill after returning from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the outbreak started.

Jan. 28, 2020

  • B.C. records its first case of the virus, and within a week, several more are confirmed, but all who had been connected to people who had travelled to or visited from the affected region in China.

Feb. 6, 2020

  • Ottawa begins repatriating what will eventually be hundreds of residents, chartering two planes to China and airlifting others from Japan on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship. The Diamond Princess had been quarantined off the coast of Japan since Feb. 3 with about 3,700 passengers on board. It wasn’t until early March when Canada’s public health officer started warning Canadians to “think twice” about cruise travel.

Feb. 26, 2020

  • Deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo tells the House Health Committee that the government is looking at the possibility of calling for social-distancing measures, which would involve the cancellation of mass public gatherings. Such measures are outlined in the government’s pandemic influenza plan.

March 4, 2020

  • Bank of Canada cuts interest rates by 50 basis points to 1.25 per cent amid coronavirus concerns, following in the U.S. Federal Reserve’s footsteps, in an effort to soften the economic impact.
  • Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland is named chair of a new cabinet committee tasked with managing the federal response to the outbreak, convened to “complement” the work of the Incident Response Group that typically meets during a crisis.

March 8, 2020

  • First COVID-19 death recorded when a B.C. resident in a nursing home died. Officials said the man was in his 80s and had other underlying health issues.

March 11, 2020

  • World Health Organization declares COVID-19 a pandemic.
  • The federal government announced a $1-billion fund aimed at mitigating the spread of the coronavirus, including $500-million in support to provinces and territories, an additional $275-million in funding for research, and waiving one-week waiting period for employees who need to claim Employment Insurance sickness benefits on account of being quarantined or having to self-isolate.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s family went into quarantine March 12 after his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, returned from a trip abroad with flu-like symptoms. The Hill Times file photograph

March 12, 2020

  • The prime minister’s wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, who returned from a trip to the United Kingdom, was tested after having flu-like symptoms, and by evening, the PMO reported she had tested positive.
  • Justin Trudeau starts 14-day self-isolation, but with no symptoms, officials said meant he would not be tested. The in-person First Ministers’ Meeting, planned for the same day, was cancelled, with Mr. Trudeau instead speaking with premiers over the phone.
  • The impact of the outbreak, combined with diving oil prices, helped push the Canadian stock market to its worst one-day plunge in eight decades.

March 13, 2020

  • Parliament agrees to suspend for five weeks until at least April 20 after unanimous agreement among all parties.
  • Senate is recalled to sit on Friday (after it adjourned the day before) to finish business, most notably to pass the new NAFTA.
  • Canada upgrades advice that international travellers should self-quarantine, but over the weekend, some passengers coming from abroad said they weren’t properly screened, prompting some provinces—like Quebec, Alberta, and Nova Scotia—and Montreal city officials to send their own personnel to make sure the federal job was being done.
  • Treasury Board Secretariat issues directive to federal public servants permitting them to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic, per their managers’ discretion.

March 15, 2020

  • Emergency cabinet meeting held in Ottawa where ministers said new measures were coming, but rebuffed reporters’ questions about why the government was waiting, and why there was insufficient screening at several airports.
  • Canada’s public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam warns the window to flatten the curve is closing.

Chief Public Health officer Dr. Theresa Tam, pictured on Jan. 26, warned Canadians on March 15 that the window to flatten the curve was closing. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

March 16, 2020

  • Mr. Trudeau announces major new measures, including banning entry to most foreign nationals, except for U.S. citizens. Anyone with symptoms, regardless of citizenship, will also be denied boarding of flights to Canada.
  • Canadian death toll rises to four, and all are connected to the B.C. nursing home where the first Canadian victim died.
  • Conservative Party says leadership race and rules will go forward, but it would give leadership candidates online tools to support efforts to canvas members from a safe social distance, including making easier to gather online signatures, but declined calls from some to push off the March 25 deadline.

March 17, 2020

  • Mr. Trudeau announced Parliament will be recalled for an emergency session to pass legislation and that the government would announce a major economic aid package on March 18 to help workers.
  • A fifth Canadian person, a 77-year-old man, dies with COVID-19 detected post-mortem, the first in Ontario.

MPs join fight to stamp out COVID-19 disinformation that’s ‘spreading faster than the virus’

NDP MP Charlie Angus and Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith have joined one such effort, Infotagion, an international initiative launched by U.K. MP Damian Collins.

‘We’re all under the gun’: MPs work 24-7 in the midst of a pandemic

MPs say COVID-19 case work is consuming their days, and they're turning to ‘imaginative’ ways of reaching out to make sure constituents' needs are met and their voices heard.

AFN National Chief Bellegarde calls on feds to ‘immediately’ release 10 per cent of COVID-19 funding to communities

News|By Palak Mangat
A portion of the $1-billion fund announced by the feds to scale up public health services will be directed to First Nations communities, in addition to other funding.

‘The deeper the wound, the longer it takes to heal’: Trump’s threats undermine Canada-U.S. relationship, says former envoy

News|By Neil Moss
'We are dealing with an administration that is both very unpredictable, very much America first, [and] not long-term thinking in terms of its relationship with its allies,' says former diplomat Michael Kergin.

Patients in psychiatric care at great risk to COVID-19 outbreak, warns Sen. Kutcher

‘We are very worried,’ echoes one psychiatrist whose association is preparing a ‘call to action’ to governments.

Feds order 30,000 ‘made-in-Canada’ ventilators

News|By Palak Mangat
'We were able to achieve a win-win outcome, that will be the argument we continue to make and advance in our relationship with the U.S.,' says Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Feds partly responsible for treatment of asylum seekers turned back at Canadian-U.S. border, say refugee advocates

News|By Neil Moss
'We should be weary of using a crisis like this to turn our back on our human rights obligations,' says University of Ottawa law professor Jamie Chai Yun Liew.

‘Is it even big enough?’: Morneau shells out unprecedented billions, economists applaud move as COVID-19 crisis deepens

'The ability to carry debt, and keep those carrying costs of debt down low, is a game-changer in terms of how we manage the deficit,' says former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page.

‘Canadians are placing all their hopes and fears in the hands of government’ and successful political leaders should be honest, unscripted, say pollsters

News|By Abbas Rana
The evolution and the ultimate outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic will eventually decide if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's and the premiers' rising approval ratings will last, say pollsters.
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