The federal government has temporarily enlarged eligibility for two COVID-19 benefit programs to help those who have been impacted by the Omicron variant’s expansion.
As governments tighten business restrictions in response to a nationwide outbreak of COVID-19, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the statement on Wednesday.
During a virtual press conference, Trudeau said, “We’re going to be there for the hardest afflicted regions, for specialized industries like art and culture, hospitality and tourism.”
“We will be there to keep you and your family safe.”
Last week Parliament passed the new Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit, a program that grants $300 a week to anyone who can’t work because of a COVID-19 lockdown.
The law also includes targeted aid for businesses that are ordered close as part of a local lockdown.
The government defined a lockdown to be when a health authority orders non-essential businesses closed and non-essential workers to stay home.
As a result, no part of the country was officially in lockdown, leaving those benefits out of reach for people even as businesses shut their doors and workers are sent home.
“We are announcing our decision to temporarily expand the definition of a lockdown so that these wage and rent support programs can support workers and businesses that see capacity restricted by 50 per cent or more,” Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said at the briefing.
The temporary policy will apply from Dec. 19 to Feb. 12.
Omicron is now the dominant variant in several provinces, prompting the closure of businesses and tight restrictions on capacity limits on many more.
Bars, nightclubs, gyms, fitness centers, and dance studios in B.C. must close at midnight tonight.
Alberta is limiting venues that seat more than 1,000 people, including arenas, to half capacity beginning Friday.
Visitors to Prince Edward Island are now required to segregate upon arrival in the province, joining Newfoundland and Labrador.
For the third day in a row, Quebec reported a record number of cases, with the Omicron variant accounting for approximately 80% of the 5,043 new infections.
Later Wednesday, Quebec Premier Francois Legault is expected to announce some “difficult choices” in response to the rapid spread of Omicron in the province.
Quebec Public Security Minister Genevieve Guilbault says she has asked Ottawa for military help to accelerate the province’s mass vaccination campaign.
The escalating case counts in Quebec and across Canada, according to Federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair, are profoundly troubling, and the federal government will engage with the state.
Despite forecasts that Omicron-related illnesses and hospitalizations will skyrocket by the end of the month if greater interventions are not implemented, Saskatchewan has no plans to tighten public health precautions over the holidays.
Meanwhile, the province of Ontario is looking into accusations of firms or individuals peddling quick antigen COVID-19 testing, with anyone discovered doing so facing stiff fines, and numerous hospitals have tightened visiting regulations.
Source_ The Canadian Press