COVID-19: A summary of major Canadian and local news

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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, more extensive measures have been put in place to protect the health and safety of Canadians and prevent further spread of the virus.

In a public statement on March 23, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the Canadian government would be allocating $192 million in funding toward developing and mass producing a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Government of Canada will be partnering with Quebec-based company Medicago for the testing and production of a vaccine and Vancouver-based company Abcellera for both preventative and treatment-oriented drugs, in addition to the University of Saskatchewan which will aid in the development of clinical trials for the vaccine.

“We’re investing in a long-term solution to COVID-19 right here at some,” said Trudeau in a public statement.

As of March 23, there are 1646 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across Canada, with an additional 445 presumed cases and a total 24 deaths resulting from the virus. 

503 of the nationwide cases have been located in Ontario, making it the province with the highest presence of COVID-19. 17 confirmed and 15 presumptive cases are located within the Waterloo region..

As more cases arise in Canada, it is clear that people are no longer contracting COVID-19 solely from international travel, but from community transmission as well.

According to Canada’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, the number of Canadians who tested positive for COVID-19 is equal for travel-related contraction and community transmission, marking a shift in the way the virus is spreading within Canada.

The growing presence of the virus within the country has put Canada at a high risk level and social distancing is being encouraged now more than ever in hopes of flattening the curve of contagion. 

On March 23, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that all Ontario businesses and services that are deemed non-essential will be directed to close in order to stifle the spread of the COVID-19 virus, effective March 24 at 11:59 p.m.

The list of essential businesses and services includes health care services, supply chain operations, retailers supplying essential products (i.e. grocery stores, liquor stores, etc.), transportation services, agriculture, manufacturing and construction, maintenance, media and telecommunication, and financial services.

Premier Ford also announced that there will be a six-week reduction of peak hydro rates to off-peak rates to help Ontario residents cut costs in this difficult time.

Despite continued government efforts to encourage social distancing, many people have not been heading these instructions, prompting a direct response from Prime Minister Trudeau.

“I want to be clear — social distancing, physical distancing is the single best way to keep the people around you safe,” said Trudeau in a public statement. “If you chose to ignore that advice, if you choose to get together with people or go to crowded places, you’re not just putting yourself at risk, you’re putting others at risk too.”

“We’ve all seen the pictures online of people who seem to think they’re invincible — well you’re not. Enough is enough. Go home and stay home.”

If Canadians continue to ignore the call for social distancing, Trudeau warns that the government may step in.

“We’re going to make sure this happens, whether by educating people more on the risks or by enforcing the rules, if that’s needed. Nothing that could help is off the table,” Trudeau said. “Listening is your duty and staying home is your way to serve.”

Locally, Wilfrid Laurier University has adjusted it’s academic plans in accordance with the government’s recommendations, opting to cancel all in-person classes, events and activities, as well as move all students out of residence services.

On March 23, Laurier announced that due to the severity of the pandemic, they have chosen to continue the online-learning model into the spring, intersession and summer terms.

The start date of the spring academic term will also be adjusted from May 4 to May 11, in order to match the dates established by University of Waterloo. This is done in hopes of giving professors additional time to plan the in-class to online transition.

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