May 7, 2020 by Colin Perkel - THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO – Dozens more people in Canada have succumbed to COVID-19, authorities reported on Thursday, as one of the country’s major inter-city bus carriers announced it would be shutting down completely due to a precipitous drop in passengers forced by the pandemic.
Of the new deaths, 48 were reported in Ontario, where 399 new cases were recorded over the last 24 hours, continuing on a downward trend.
The announcement by Greyhound Canada will mean another 400 employees will be out of work as of May 13. Ridership, the company said, had fallen 95 per cent and revenues plunged. With service cut in Western Canada two years ago and several other routes already reduced or suspended due to COVID-19, the company said it was unable to continue without government money.
“This decision came as a last resort option to address the uncontrollable consequences and devastating impacts of this pandemic,” Stuart Kendrick, senior vice-president, said in a statement. “We will continue our discussions with the provincial and federal governments.”
The closure of bus routes comes along with already drastically reduced commercial air and rail traffic, leaving cars as one of the few ways to travel any distance.
Across Canada, about 64,000 people known to have contracted the novel coronavirus. The Canadian Armed Forces have deployed more than 1,000 troops in long-term care facilities and elsewhere, but Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan would not say how many members have fallen ill.
Most of the deployed personnel are in Quebec nursing homes, which have been hit brutally by the pandemic, but also at five homes in Ontario. Others are helping out in a variety of tasks in remote and rural areas.
At his daily briefing, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government would spend $3 billion for wage top-ups for essential workers. The money will go to provinces, which are putting up another $1 billion and will decide who gets extra cash.
Trudeau had previously offered federal wage assistance, particularly for personal support workers and other front-line health staff in light of the devastation in long-term care homes where most of Canada’s 4,300 deaths have occurred.
Quebec and Ontario had already announced a $4-per-hour pay hike for workers in private long-term care homes and some other facilities, while Saskatchewan is supplementing wages by $400 per month for those working with seniors, in group homes and in child care.
Trudeau said he’s not overly concerned about the huge amounts of money the government is spending, saying cushioning the pandemic’s economic blow is his priority. The global outbreak, he said, had revealed problems such as the plight of vulnerable workers that need to be dealt with.
-With files from Canadian Press reporters across the country
Feature image via iStock.com/BalkansCat