Updating Canadians on the COVID-19 situation
I’m very pleased to be here with you today, joined by Minister Ng for some brief remarks and Ministers Tassi and Duclos to take your questions. We’re here today to talk about what we’re doing to continue to support you and protect you during this difficult time.
On Monday night we had our 36th First Ministers’ meeting since the beginning of this pandemic. It was an important and a constructive conversation in which we came together to respond to this very difficult Omicron wave that is hitting across the country, particularly in terms of its impact on our healthcare workers and systems. We talked about vaccines, we talked about rapid tests, we talked about procurement of treatments and a number of other issues. We continue to work together across all orders of government to support Canadians, to support our health workers, and to make sure that our economy is able to come roaring back once this wave comes through.
On vaccines and boosters, we now, as people know, have enough vaccine supply in this country to make sure that everyone can get fully vaccinated. We continue to bring in doses for any future needs that science and experts will dictate to us; we’ve advanced 1.8 million doses of Pfizer into January, for a total of 6.8 million Pfizer doses in January for Canadians aged 12 and over.
So, it’s really important that everyone get their booster when it’s time for you to do so. And we have more than 10 million boosters already administered across the country, so if you haven’t, please go get your shot. It’s never too late to do the right thing. And I can tell you that when you show up to get your very first shot in your local vaccine clinic or your pharmacy, the pharmacist, the healthcare workers will be incredibly pleased to be able to give you your first shot. It is about doing the right thing; they’d much rather be giving you an injection of a vaccine to keep you and everyone safe than having to deal with you in a critical care bed.
Please, it’s time to get vaccinated, it’s time to get your boosters.
We notice as well that only about 45% of Canadian kids between 5 and 12 years old have been vaccinated. With schools still virtual but eventually return… in many places still virtual and in many places returning soon, we need to make sure that kids are getting vaccinated.
When I left this morning to come to this press conference, I went to check on my three kids who were each in their room on the computer and iPad, doing virtual school. We know this will be over soon. We want everyone to be vaccinated. Please, encourage your friends, your neighbours, to get vaccinated and to get their kids vaccinated.
Vaccines work. They work to protect you, they work to protect the vulnerable people around you, they also work to support our frontline healthcare workers who are in danger of being overwhelmed by this Omicron wave. So, we’re not just supporting them, we’re supporting the people who are at risk of seeing important surgeries and treatments cancelled because our health systems are getting overrun. We need to continue to do what we know we can do; that is stay safe, be careful in your gatherings, in your distancing, wear a mask, and yes, remember to continue to get vaccinated.
On that, I want to thank once again our extraordinary frontline health workers and everyone working in public health for the incredible work they’ve done over the past two years. This pandemic is dragging on and on and it’s exhausting for everyone, but it’s particularly difficult for those health workers who have been going flat out for the past two years to try and keep everyone safe, to try and get us through this. Please do everything we can to protect them. They deserve not just our thanks, our deepest gratitude, but our support, and that means getting the boosters, getting the vaccinations, getting our kids vaccinated so we can get through this.
I also want to talk about the support we’re continuing to provide to our businesses, to our small businesses, to our workers. The pandemic isn’t over so we’re going to continue to be there for Canadians, like we’ve promised since the pandemic started.
We have support in case of lockdown, we have the wage subsidy. Remember the wage subsidy is there to help you retain your employees even if your operations are reduced. It’s important to keep that connection with employees, it’s important to be able to help employees continue to pay their rent, put food on the table for their families, but also to be able to return as quickly as possible once this pande…this wave is over. Rapid economic recovery, we know that that’s important for the economic well-being of our entire country, so use this wage subsidy, it’s there for you.
But small business also need more flexibility. That’s why we will announce today…we’re announcing today that we are extending the deadline to pay back the Canada Emergency Benefit Account loans.
So, to support small businesses, we are there with measures like the wage subsidy.
I want to remind employers that the wage subsidy is retroactive, so if you're making decisions right now about whether to keep people on through the coming weeks or not, know that that wage subsidy will be there to help you. We want to be able to have people continue to be tied to their jobs so that we can bounce back quicker once this wave is gone and we start re-opening. People need the support to be able to keep food on the table; that's why that wage subsidy and the rent subsidy is there offered by the Federal Government to help you make it through this difficult wave.
We're also announcing today that we're extending the Canada Emergency Business Account – the CEBA – for eligible borrowers to the end of 2023. Minister Ng will have more details, but the bottom line is of course this: we will continue to be there to have people's backs with as much as it takes, with as long as it takes, until we get through this pandemic.
I want to end today by speaking directly to kids once again. I know many of you are in virtual school again. Many of you have made more sacrifices over Christmas, over the holidays, not seeing your friends, not seeing your loved ones, having to hunker down, having to help out around the house as your parents are working virtually. This is not easy.
And I know almost half of kids across this country have gotten their vaccine, from ages 5 to 12. We need to get more. So, please, ask your parents if you can get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated protects yourself, protects your family, protects your grandparents, protects vulnerable people, but it also supports our frontline workers who are working incredibly hard; our nurses and doctors and people in hospitals who are dealing with a rise in cases.
We know, kids across this country, you've been doing the right things over these past long years, and it sucks, but you've been amazing, and we need to keep doing everything we can to get through this.
I’m counting on you. I’m counting on everyone across the country to continue to do the right thing, even if we’re tired, even if we’re fed up, we’re going to continue to do the right thing to protect ourselves, to make sure that our country, our economy continues to run as it should, and we’re always going to be able to be there for each other by doing the right thing.