COVID-19: Canada update

Snapshot of what's happening in provinces in the CSG East region

May 29, 2020

Canada and the United States have extended the deadline for reopening the border through late June. The restrictions – limitations to non-essential cross-border travel along the northern and southern U.S. borders — have been in place since March 20 and have now been extended twice. They are and currently set to expire on June 22, 2020, unless amended or rescinded.

empty road with overhead sign at sunset

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The travel restrictions are not meant to interrupt legitimate trade between the United States and Canada or disrupt critical supply chains that ensure delivery of food, fuel, medicine, and other critical materials. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is looking to tweak the agreement on the Canadian side to permit reunification of families.

In spite of the border closures to non-essential traffic, trade between the United States and Canada has continued through the pandemic. Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said earlier in May that “We have been able to cut down the traffic across that border by over 90% and at the same time trade is still happening – goods and services are still flowing across the border.”

However, Canadian pollster Angus Reid reports that 42 percent of Canadians say that September would be a better target to re-open the border to non-essential traffic, while more than a quarter of those polled (26 percent) said the countries should wait until 2021.

On March 25, the federal government announced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to provide $2,000 per month for workers who are the victims of the COVID-19 pandemic. All Canadians who are unable to work because of COVID-19 are entitled to the benefit whether or not they are eligible for employment insurance, in particular those who have lost income because of COVID-19, including those who still have a job but are no longer receiving income because of COVID-19-related work interruptions; they are sick or in quarantine; they must stay home to take care of a child or someone suffering from the virus.

Below, you’ll find a snapshot of how each of the Canadian provinces in the CSG East region are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.


As of May 29, Ontario has seen 27,210 total cases of COVID-19 and reported 2,230 deaths, just under half that Quebec has experienced.

Ontario is extending all emergency orders until June 9; it was originally declared on March 17. Included in the orders are the closure of outdoor playgrounds and swimming pools, as well as bars and restaurants except for takeout and delivery. There continue to be restrictions on social gatherings of more than five people. Ontario recently announced that it is increasing testing for the coronavirus across the province.

Ontario’s three-stage “Framework for Reopening” outlines the principles the government will use to reopen businesses, services, and public spaces while maintaining the health and safety of its residents, though it has not attached dates to the various stages. Premier Doug Ford in April assembled a Jobs and Recovery Committee to develop a plan to stimulate economic growth and job creation once businesses are allowed to reopen when the COVID-19 public health crisis is over.

The Canadian military issued a disturbing report that paints a picture of “severe neglect inside several of Ontario’s long-term care homes struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic, including observations of insect infestations, staffing shortages, and patients being underfed and left in soiled diapers.” The military issued a similar report for Québec, where the vast majority of COVID-19 deaths occurred in long-term care facilities. The report outlined understaffing, improper use of protective equipment, and inadequate separation infected residents.


Québec has been hit hard by the coronavirus. Montreal has been at the center of the COVID-19 crisis in Canada, and for a while, Québec was the 7th deadliest place in the world for daily deaths.

As of May 28, there have been 50,232 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Québec, and 4,363 deaths, with the majority in the Montreal region. Almost three-quarters of the deaths have been of people 80 years of age or older.

The public health emergency that was declared in mid-March has been extended to June 3.

As of May 25, all retail stores with direct outside customer access can open. Outside the Montreal and Joliette regions, establishments within shopping centers can open on June 1; opening dates for Montreal and Joliette will be announced soon.

As of May 29, museums, libraries, and drive-in movie theatres may open under strict conditions. Starting June 1, music and sound recording studios, as well as the filming and recording of performances without an audience, may start up. Day camps may open on June 22, but overnight camps (with exceptions for some groups of people with disabilities) will be closed until 2021.

Québec has set up the Incentive Program to Retain Essential Workers, which seeks to offset the difference between the wages of essential workers and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. Eligible workers have been able to apply online for the assistance since May 19. Hydro-Québec extended its annual winter moratorium on electricity shutoffs (which usually ends on April 1) indefinitely through the COVID-19 pandemic; it has also halted all cutoffs for non-payment, and suspended administration charges for unpaid bills since March 23.


Nova Scotia was hit harder by COVID-19 than the other Maritime provinces. The province has seen 1,053 positive tests and 59 deaths; there have been no new cases since mid-May.

On March 22 Nova Scotia declared a state of emergency to help contain the spread of COVID-19; this has been extended until June 14, 2020. The province early on enacted measures to anyone who had traveled outside Nova Scotia to self-isolate or self-quarantine. Deadlines for services, fees, and permits, such as driver’s licenses, have been extended five months. The province has also offered services to support seniors, for lunch programs for students, income assistance, and fees deferral, among other services.

The Nova Scotia government has introduced a new loan program to help municipalities with financial losses due to COVID-19. It has also set up a $25-million program to assist eligible small businesses, non-profits, charities, and social enterprises that were ordered to close or greatly reduce operations because of the Public Health Order, or that were greatly impacted by social distancing and orders to stay home.

Effective June 5, most businesses that had been required to close can reopen if they follow protocols in the plan that is tailored to their sector related to physical distancing, increased cleaning, and other protective measures for staff and customers. This includes restaurants for dine-in, bars, hair salons and barber shops, and fitness facilities. Heath providers (including veterinarians) can also reopen on June 5. Public health officials are targeting the opening of child care facilities for June 15, but are still finalizing plans.

Nova Scotia’s existing public health directives around physical distancing and gathering limits remain in effect: people must keep six feet apart and not gather in groups of more than five. Outdoor facilities are generally open, though public restrooms, for example, remain closed.


Since May 18, 2020, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick has remained at 120; the number of active cases is zero and everyone who tested positive for the disease has recovered. On May 8, the province moved to Phase 2 of its COVID-19 recovery plan, which is aimed at the reopening of businesses and activities while working to prevent a resurgence of transmission.

New Brunswick has set up a variety of programs for small and larger businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including

  • working capital loans for small business owners (restaurants, full time and seasonal tourism operations, service sectors, etc.);
  • working capital loans up to $1 million for larger businesses in New Brunswick (manufacturing and processing industries, information technology and related sectors, business-to-business service sectors engaged in export, or import replacement activities, and cultural enterprises);
  • a Community Investment Fund to provide relief to non-profits in the province;
  • deferring interest and principal payments on a case-by-case basis for existing provincial loans; and
  • waiving some late penalties on business property taxes on a case-by-case basis.

In the new phase of recovery, on Friday, June 5, New Brunswick will loosen restrictions (for all regions except one in the north) to permit outdoor gatherings of 50 people or fewer with physical distancing, religious services of 50 people or fewer, elective surgeries, low-contact team sports. Pools, saunas and waterparks; gyms, yoga and dance studios; rinks and indoor recreational facilities, among others will be allowed to open. On Friday, June 19, 2020, overnight camps will be able to open.

However, non-essential travel into the province remains prohibited for campers and cottagers from outside New Brunswick. Everyone entering New Brunswick at any point of entry is required to self-isolate for 14 days.


Under the state of emergency in effect until May 31, all non-essential travel to Prince Edward Island has been prohibited. The government of Prince Edward Island instituted a pre-travel approval process for anyone wanting to travel to the island; pre-approval travel has not been approved for non-permanent residents to shop, occupy vacation homes, or visit. Permanent residents of PEI must show a valid PEI driver’s license and/or a valid PEI health card.

As of May 29, 2020, there have been only 27 cases of COVID-19 in the province, a figure that has remained constant for several weeks; no COVID-19 deaths have been recorded.

As part of Phase 2 of Renew PEI, Together, the provincial government on May 22 released its plan for expanded child to gradually and safely reopen childcare services as it begins to ease public health measures.

The PEI government is accepting applications for Island businesses and employers to apply for a temporary wage top-up for essential workers and funding to purchase health and safety protective measures in their workplaces. It has also set up a COVID-19 Support for Essential Workers program for those earning $3,000/month or less during the PEI Public Health State of Emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are also emergency relief programs for businesses, including assistance for broadband and rent deferral.

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