March 20 COVID-19 update: Feds to help produce medical equipment, three new Ottawa cases, rail changes and more

Special to WC Online

CANADA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled the federal government’s plan to have companies quickly produce medical equipment to cope with the rapidly multiplying cases of COVID-19 across Canada in is daily COVID-19 update today (March 20).

Trudeau says the plan will provide support to manufacturers that want to retool their assembly lines to make ventilators, masks and other personal protective gear.

Other supplies to be produced under the plan are sanitization products, diagnostic and testing products, and disease-tracking technology, the government says.

It will also help those already making such products to quickly scale up.

Ottawa has been working with provinces and territories to determine where gaps exist in the system and to try to fill them before they become a significant problem.

Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam said there has been no specific request for ventilators yet but the federal government is trying to pre-empt that by acquiring things that may be needed as the number of cases surges.

Speaking outside his Ottawa residence today, Trudeau said he is confident Canadian companies will be able to quickly meet the demand for necessary medical equipment.

“We recognize that the efforts that we are going through are unprecedented,” he said. “These are historic times in which we need to do everything we can to support Canadians and mobilize all our efforts in smart ways. There are people who are talking about historical echoes, whether it was war time or the Great Depression, we’re focused on what we need to do right now.”

Trudeau also repeated a request from public health officials for people to practice “social distancing” as much as possible to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Asked if the government is considering an order for everyone to remain at home, similar to one issued in California, Trudeau said the Liberals are looking at all possible measures.

Three new COVID-19 cases in Ottawa

OTTAWA – The provincial government is confirming three new cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa, two of which contracted the virus through close contacts.

The two that got it through close contact are both men in their 40s and both are believed to be self-isolating. The third Ottawa coronavirus case, announced today (March 20), is a man in his 80s who recently travelled to Portugal. He is also self-isolating.

These three cases bring the city’s total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases to 19.

On Thursday, Ottawa Public Health mentioned there were three presumptive cases in the community, but there has been no word on whether the three announced Friday are those same people.

Overall, Ontario saw a rise in COVID-19 cases from 257 to 308 on Friday. Five of those people that tested positive have recovered while two have died.

Confederation Line changes

OTTAWA – OC Transpo has roped off the front doors of the Confederation Line trains to reduce the risk of operators contracting COVID-19.

Tape will block off the doors that are closest to the front of the train and signage will inform riders of the change.

The closure will block off the usual train entrance for riders travelling with bicycles. Stickers will be added to the door to indicate which one should be used for those travelling with a bicycle. 

Transit officials said accessible seating is available throughout the rest of the train.

OC Transpo is still working out a solution to protect operators on the Trillium Line. Officials said it is more challenging to block the door closest to the operator, as Line 2 trains only have two doors.

Ottawa Hospital, Montfort restrict visitors

OTTAWA – The Ottawa Hospital (TOH) and Montfort hospital will no longer accept visitors except on compassionate grounds.

“Starting [Friday] March 20, in order to protect everyone’s health, visits will no longer be permitted at Montfort,” the Montfort Hospital released in a statement. “Exceptions can be made for a partner attending a delivery at the Family Birthing Center or for compassionate reasons.”

An internal email to staff from TOH president and CEO, J.B. Kitts said it is taking the measure due to the growing concern about community transmission of the coronavirus. 

VIA Rail reduces services

CANADA – VIA Rail is offering fewer rides, no baggage service and no business lounges as the COVID-19 pandemic situation evolves.

In a statement released Thursday (March 19), the passenger rail service said it’s making changes due to a significant reduction in customers, as well as to follow the most recent recommendations of public health authorities across the country.

“These new measures we are announcing today are difficult, but the current situation is exceptional and calls for an exceptional response,” VIA Rail President and chief executive officer Cynthia Garneau said. “Protecting the health and safety of our passengers and employees continues to be our focus so we are adjusting our operations to ensure we minimize the propagation of COVID-19 when traveling with VIA Rail. As a public service, we do what we can to maintain some of our services in the best possible conditions for as long as possible to help facilitate travel along the Corridor and on regional routes.”

For new scheduling information, click here.

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