Updating Canadians on the COVID-19 situation
Thank you very much. Hello, everyone. I’m very pleased to be here today with our minister of Health, Jean-Yves Duclos.
Our focus continues on keeping Canadians safe.
So, I have a few updates for you here today. First of all, on treatments.
On therapeutics: Monday, Health Canada approved the antiviral Paxlovid.
It’s an important new tool in our tool kit. It’ll protect against severe outcomes, hospitalization, and death. We have a contract for one million courses of treatment, and we’ve received our first shipment, and distribution to provinces and territories are underway.
It’s important to remember that this will be a powerful tool to continue to keep people from getting extremely sick, but it needs to be used right, and it’s not a replacement for getting vaccinated, for wearing masks, for staying safe, for keeping your distance, for doing all the things that need to keep us safe from the beginning; it’s just an extra layer of tools that we can use as we move forward in… through this pandemic.
On vaccines and rapid tests: we now have enough doses for everyone to get vaccinated, including with boosters. So there’s no longer any excuse; people must get vaccinated and that’s how we’ll get through this. And I again want to say that there’s no need to feel self-conscious about going to get your first dose. I can tell you that the nurse injecting you with your first dose will be so much happier giving you your first dose—even today in January 2022—than they would be if they had to treat you in intensive care.
Please remember, we have enough doses for everyone to get vaccinated, to get their booster shots, so go do it. No matter how… you may feel that you’re late; better late than never, it’s never too late to do the right thing. And the health worker who will be helping you get vaccinated would much rather be giving you a vaccine than intubating you in the ICU.
So please, keep doing what is right.
At the same time, we know as we get back to school, as kids are re-engaging, parents are worried about the health of their kids; therefore, get them vaccinated. The vaccination rate for kids 5 to 12 is too low in Canada, which means not only are kids more vulnerable, but all of society, whether it’s teachers, whether it’s grandparents, whether its frontline health workers risking getting overwhelmed when those people start to get sick. We need to do what’s right; we need to continue to do the right thing. That means getting our kids vaccinated. It is safe and effective and the right way to get through this pandemic.
Another tool obviously is rapid tests, which are extremely important during this wave of Omicron. We are purchasing hundreds of millions of rapid tests and sending them to provinces and territories for distribution to Canadians. Getting tested regularly is an important part of how we’re going to stay safe, but again, it’s no replacement for getting vaccinated, for getting your booster shots, for getting our kids vaccinated, so let’s keep doing that.
The hardship of this pandemic is felt by small businesses, by workers, by folks across the country in our economy; that’s why we’re continuing to step up. We made a promise in the beginning of the pandemic, to have people’s backs, and we have. There are direct income supports for people who lose their jobs or are laid off, but there is also a wage subsidy for businesses to be able to keep people on the payroll so that we can come roaring back quickly when this current wave is done—keep people tied to their job.
These are the kinds of tools that we have that work best. So, the wage subsidy, the rent subsidy, the supports we have for people are there to be used. They will be there for all hard-hit businesses through this wave. Please make use of them. The federal government is there to help.
But we also know that, with everything we’re doing in Canada—Omicron is one example—this pandemic won’t end anywhere until it ends everywhere. This means we must continue our international efforts to ensure that people around the world have access to vaccines, access to medical support and to the necessary resources. That is why, earlier today, Minister Sajjan spoke of the one billion doses that COVAX has delivered to countries around the world. Canada will have provided at least 200 million doses before the end of 2022.
Canada is, and has been from the very beginning, one of the top donors, including global vaccine donors, and has played a leading role within COVAX and the ACT-Accelerator and various mechanisms to make sure we are getting vaccines out to the world, and supports to be able to get those vaccines into arms around the world.
We’re also moving forward on specific supports to develop access to vaccines, including for example, $15 million to South Africa to develop vaccine manufacturing. We will continue to step up, but we also know that other countries must do the same. We’ll continue to work with our partners and friends around the world to encourage people to do that.
Speaking of international issues, before I finish today, I do want to touch on the situation in the Ukraine. Yesterday I spoke with ministers and the Chief of Defence Staff and a range of officials on an update and a strategy session around Ukraine. Minister Joly joined the call from Ukraine where she met with President Zelensky and other top officials and reiterated Canada’s steadfast support for the people of Ukraine.
We are there as friends and allies. We have a military mission there—Operation UNIFIER—and Minister Anand has been talking about that. We are there to support and train the Ukrainian troops, and we’re working with our international partners and colleagues to make it very, very clear that Russian aggression and further incursion into Ukraine is absolutely unacceptable. We are standing there with diplomatic responses, with sanctions, with a full press on the international stage to ensure that Russia respects the people of Ukraine, respects their choice to choose their governments and their direction. We will always be there for the people of Ukraine, and Canada will continue to stand with our allies in defending our friends in Ukraine.
With the cold weather, with snowstorms, with the short, dark days, I know people across the country are having a hard time. We just had a big snowstorm in Ontario and Quebec, and I understand how exhausted people are. These have been two extremely difficult years and it’s still going. We are worried about our health, the health of our loved ones, the economy, our health care systems. There is a lot of anxiety weighing on a great many people.
And that’s why I want to stress how important it is for us to continue to be there for each other, to help our neighbours, to do the right things to protect ourselves, but also to look out for each other in terms of our mental health. People are facing a great many crisis situations and we need to be there for each other.
That is why we recently launched the PocketWell app to help people find mental health supports.
We’ve recently launched the new PocketWell app, that I encourage you all to download onto your phone. It is an extra tool that the Government of Canada has put together to help people access resources for mental health and wellness, to help people be there for each other, and to make sure that people know that we’re going to get through this by leaning on each other and by supporting each other. It’s what Canadians always do when we’re at our best, and the difficulty of this pandemic has brought out the best of Canadians as we continue to step up for each other.
So, please, be thoughtful, be engaged, be supportive, listen to people. Know that young people are facing real challenges around mental health. The elderly, again, are facing isolation and challenges, and we’re all in a time of stress and anxiety. The more we can be there for each other, the better off we’ll be as we make it through this.
Thank you, everyone.