Canada’s Economic Heartland Shuts Down in Effort to Slow Virus
(Bloomberg) -- Canada’s economic heartland is shutting down as Ontario and Quebec step up efforts to slow down the coronavirus outbreak.
The two provinces, which together account for about 57% of the country’s economy, have ordered non-essential businesses to close by the end of Tuesday. The order is set to run for two weeks in Ontario and three in Quebec.
“We’re entering a new, more critical stage and it’s time to add measures to limit contagion,” Quebec Premier Francois Legault told reporters Monday.
The drastic measures reflect policy makers’ concerns over the escalation of cases, which some people make worse by continuing to go out and mingle. Canada had 1,432 confirmed cases of coronavirus as on Monday morning; the number has more than doubled since March 18.
While many companies had already announced plans to suspend operations, the additional closures are set to deepen an economic contraction that economists estimate will be between 10% and 24% in the second quarter, on an annualized basis.
Governments and the central bank are multiplying measures to cushion the blow. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an C$82 billion ($56.5 billion) aid package last week. On Monday British Columbia, which has about as many virus cases as Ontario, said it would offer C$5 billion in tax relief and other support for businesses and individuals.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said a list of businesses allowed to stay open will be shared Tuesday. Quebec’s list included banks, telecommunications, media, essential transportation and providers of drugs and groceries. Mining and metals companies are deemed essential in Quebec, but must reduce their activity to a minimum.
The premiers, along with Trudeau, have urged people to pay heed to social isolation guidelines that still aren’t respected across the board. Canada has so far stopped short of mandatory confinement of people in their homes.
”Enough is enough,” Trudeau told reporters outside his residence in Ottawa on Monday. “Go home and stay home. This is what we all need to be doing.”
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