Prime minister promises more pandemic aid to come from Ottawa

Trudeau warned the reopening of the economy will happen ‘very, very gradually’

TORONTO — Justin Trudeau says there will be more support from the federal government to help certain sectors of the economy reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The prime minister made the promise yesterday, without getting into specifics, as he announced an extension to Ottawa’s emergency wage-subsidy program beyond its early-June endpoint. He said he’d have more to say about that next week.

The pledges followed the unsettling news that nearly two million jobs were lost in April, adding to the one million lost in March, pushing Canada’s unemployment rate to a staggering 13 per cent.

Some new signs of both economic and social life appeared in many parts of the country this week as various provinces took more tentative steps to loosen lockdown restrictions.

But Trudeau warned the reopening of the economy and the lifting of restrictions will happen “very, very gradually” and transmission of the disease will have to be carefully monitored.

Though the COVID-19 curve has been flattening in many regions, the disease continues to take a terrible toll, especially in the epicentres of Quebec and Ontario.

Another 161 deaths were reported yesterday, raising the country’s total to 4,569. And the number of new coronavirus cases rose by 1,512 to 66,434.

Meanwhile, the federal government revealed Friday that it suspended shipments of N95 respirators from a Montreal-based supplier after about eight million of the masks made in China failed to meet specifications.

The office of Procurement Minister Anita Anand said that of the nearly 11 million masks received from the distributor, about one million met federal standards and another 1.6 million are still being tested.

The Public Health Agency of Canada noted that while Canada gets a lot of protective equipment from international manufacturers, domestic manufacturers also provide gowns, face shields and hand sanitizer, among other products.

This includes an agreement with Medicom, based in Pointe-Claire, Que., for production of 20 million N95 respirator masks and 24 million surgical masks per year for the next 10 years, starting this summer.

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