Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the Canada-U.S. border is likely to close to non-essential travel by the weekend, though talks are still ongoing to iron out all the details as both sides implement increasingly restrictive measures to combat COVID-19.
Speaking from outside his residence at Rideau Cottage, the prime minister said that his best estimate for when the border will be closed to tourists and non-essential visitors is between Friday and Saturday.
"We are continuing to work on the fine tuning of the agreement between Canada, the United States. I think it's almost there. My understanding is that the measures will probably come into place in the night between Friday and Saturday, so in about a day and a half," Trudeau said.
The discussion on implementation continues between Canadian officials and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
When governments on both sides announced the restrictions on Wednesday, talks were still underway about the details, given the need for commerce and trade to not be interrupted by the shutdown across the longest undefended border in the world.
Canada has already shut its border to most non-citizens looking to enter the country. International flights have been rerouted to four airports where more intensive screening is being conducted on passengers arriving, and travellers with symptoms are being denied entry on flights to Canada.
If a passenger demonstrates symptoms of the virus upon arriving in Canada they are being taken under the care of public health officials, and everyone arriving in Canada from abroad is being asked to acknowledge they are to self-isolate for 14 days.
'Weeks or months'
A week into his self-isolation, Trudeau once again addressed Canadians on the latest developments in the COVID-19 pandemic and Canada's response and emphasized the steps taken so far.
In his remarks, Trudeau also said Canadians across the country have seen significant interruptions to their daily lives, due to the virus.
"Over the last week, we've seen significant changes in what COVID-19 means for the country," Trudeau said.
"I know it's also a lot to take in," Trudeau said, going over the research, treatments, and supports the government is working on.
Trudeau said based on the best advice they are getting, the social distancing measures are set to be the reality for "weeks to months."
"There's no doubt, these are uncertain times. But no matter what happens next, we can count on each other," Trudeau said.
Industries ready to pivot
Trudeau offered another thank-you to those on the front lines of the fight against the novel coronavirus and said more information will be coming soon on the procurement of essential supplies and how industry can chip in.
The prime minister said more will be announced, after hearing from many companies who have offered to retool their manufacturing setups to start producing supplies needed to combat the disease.
Sources close to the ongoing discussions between the federal government and industry have told CTV News that talks have been underway since last week about how various industries can pivot to producing equipment like ventilators, face masks, and sanitizer.
Some industry leaders have said their sectors are ready to re-tool and shift what they are producing, like automotive part makers.
Plan to pass financial aid
With the number of confirmed Canadian cases continuing to rise, and citizens slowly adjusting to the reality of necessary self-isolation and social distancing, there is pressure to see the promised financial assistance reach Canadians' wallets as quickly as possible, to allow people to continue to heed public health advice without fear of being unable to make ends meet.
On Wednesday, Trudeau also unveiled a major $82-billion two-pronged financial package, but questions remained about when these policy actions will come into force.
While some assistance is coming through pre-existing programs such as Employment Insurance and the Canada Child Benefit, the government needs to pass legislation to fully enact the suite of financial top-ups, tax deferrals and loans they have readied to help Canadians and stimulate the economy badly hit by the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The prime minister said Thursday that the public service is already working on getting these supports rolling out the door, and he’s planning to speak with the Clerk of the Privy Council later this afternoon "to talk about how we can support our public servants and ensure that Canadians can access these new programs."
Trudeau did not offer any more concrete timing of Parliament's return to pass those measures, though the opposition parties have made it clear that they are on board. Both the House and Senate suspended last week in an effort to combat the spread of the virus on Parliament Hill.
Plans are being set for the minimum number of politicians — ideally those with the shortest distance to travel — to reconvene in Ottawa early next week.
'Plank the curve'
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland chaired a meeting of the special cabinet committee focused on the federal response to COVID-19 on Thursday morning, and then joined her colleagues and health officials for another noon update on the virus.
There, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam implored Canadians to go beyond flattening the curve, suggesting instead that Canada’s job at the moment is to "plank the curve."
"We don't just need to flatten the curve, we need to plank it. And we need everyone, from government to communities, families and individuals to work together. We all have got to get it right, and get it right, right now because the price of not doing so is too high," Dr. Tam said.
Tam said she will have a better indication in the coming weeks whether or not Canadians are truly taking public health advice and calls from all levels of government to stay home, seriously or not.
"I always tell people it is bit like watching the lights coming from a star, you know what you're seeing reported today is something that actually happened a while back," Tam said of the continual rise of new cases.
"What we're seeing now with the day to day increase is something that happened before. So what I would like to see—and I'll be watching very closely in the next two weeks or so—what actually happens to that curve," she said. Though she cautioned that as seen in other countries where outbreaks have appeared to have peaked, it took a few months to get there.
"What I would like to see in Canada of course, is to not even get there."
As of Thursday evening there were 805 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Canada.
With files from CTV News' Kevin Gallagher