Canada must have enough capacity to sufficiently test for and trace cases of COVID-19 before the economy can reopen, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday (April 28).
The prime minister made the remarks the day after Ontario and Quebec offered their respective frameworks for reopening the provinces’ economies.
B.C. has not yet released its own framework.
A shared set of guidelines between the federal government and the provinces for reopening the Canadian economy will be released later in the day, Trudeau said during his daily media briefing outside his home in Ottawa.
Sufficient testing and tracing would allow for workers who’ve come in contact with a colleague exposed to COVID-19 to quickly self-isolate and help curb further transmission of the virus.
While 26,000 tests were carried out nationwide Monday, Trudeau said he understands more widespread testing will be needed and the country is in the midst of increasing capacity through procurement measures as well as boosting domestic production.
“We need common guidelines to make sure that the decisions being taken across the country are grounded in the shared understanding and appreciation of what science and experts are telling us,” the prime minister said.
“These are not the specific measures [about] when you can go back to work or school, or when you can see your neighbours, or extended family or friends. This framework will lay out the things that will need to happen before we take any next steps. Restarting our economy will be gradual and careful, and will be guided by science.”
While the pandemic has had markedly different impacts on different provinces and regions within the provinces, the guidelines are meant to inform decision-makers through a common set of principles accepted across the country.
As Canadians turn more of their focus towards the possibility of reopening the economy, the prime minister cautioned that stronger measures will have to remain in place for vulnerable groups.
And as more regions and sectors prepare to reopen, Trudeau said personal protective equipment will be needed to ensure the health and safety of Canadians returning to work.
The federal government will be shipping more than 6 million surgical masks to the provinces and territories as well as more than 100,000 face shields, the prime minister said.
Trudeau’s latest updates on the state of reopening come the day after the federal government launched its wage-subsidy program to businesses.
He said 44,000 businesses have so far applied to the $73-billion program that covers 75% of the first $58,700 an employee earns.
The goal is for businesses to retain workers to help the economy ramp up as normal activity returns.