COVID-19

The continued spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Canada and around the world has undoubtedly raised many concerns for residents in my constituency of South Surrey—White Rock.

As your Member of Parliament, I wanted to reach out to you to provide you with the latest updates on the government of Canada’s response to this pandemic.

I encourage you to take the time to read the information provided below and follow the guidance of our Health Care officials so that we can all ensure that our loved ones, front line workers and communities are safe.


General COVID-19 questions

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who get COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

How is COVID-19 spread?

People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus. The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets. This is why it is important to stay more than 1 meter (3 feet) away from a person who is sick. The WHO is assessing ongoing research on the ways COVID-19 is spread and will continue to share updated findings. 

Can COVID-19 be caught from a person who has no symptoms?

The main way the disease spreads is through respiratory droplets expelled by someone who is coughing. The risk of catching COVID-19 from someone with no symptoms at all is very low. However, many people with COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms. This is particularly true in the early stages of the disease. It is, therefore, possible to catch COVID-19 from someone who has, for example, just a mild cough and does not feel ill.  WHO is assessing ongoing research on the period of transmission of COVID-19 and will continue to share updated findings.   

What precautions should I take to prevent COVID-19?

You can reduce your chances of being infected or spreading COVID-19 by taking some simple precautions:

  • Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
  • Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.

Keep up to date on the latest COVID-19 hotspots (cities or local areas where COVID-19 is spreading widely). If possible, avoid traveling to places – especially if you are an older person or have diabetes, heart or lung disease.

How long does the virus live on surfaces?

It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment). If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.

Is there anything I should not do?

The following measures ARE NOT effective against COVID-2019 and can be harmful:

  • Smoking
  • Wearing multiple masks
  • Taking antibiotics (See question 10 “Are there any medicines of therapies that can prevent or cure COVID-19?“)

In any case, if you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early to reduce the risk of developing a more severe infection and be sure to share your recent travel history with your health care provider.

If I have recently travelled, or are returning from a trip, what should I do upon returning to Canada?

Self-isolate for 14 days after your return from travel outside of Canada. Some provinces and territories may have specific recommendations for certain groups such as health care workers.

Monitor your health for fever, cough or difficulty breathing.

Wash your hands often for 20 seconds and cover your mouth and nose with your arm when coughing or sneezing.

What should I do if I think I have symptoms or think I may have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19?

BC COVID-19 SELF ASSESSMENT TOOL: https://bc.thrive.health/

GOVERNMENT OF CANADA COVID-19 SELF ASSESSMENT TOOL: https://ca.thrive.health/covid19/en

Where can I get the most up to date information on the coronavirus (COVID-19) and actions being taken to protect the health of British Columbians?

https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html

http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19

Travel questions

Should I be canceling my travel plans because of COVID-19?

Both provincial and federal health officials have issued advice to all Canadians to avoid or cancel all international travel. Many airlines have waived changed fees. In short, to prevent the spread of COVID-19, health officials are asking you not to travel internationally at this time. Health officials are also requesting Canadians arriving back from international travel to self-isolated for 14 days.

The Government of Canada is advising that Canadians avoid all travel on cruise ships due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, until further notice.

More information: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/latest-travel-health-advice.html

I am currently outside of Canada. Should I be returning home to Canada earlier than planned?

The government is recommending that travellers find out what options are still available to return to Canada and consider returning as soon as possible. Canadians seeking to return now face reduced commercial travel options and may experience a sudden spike in prices.

​To help Canadians abroad return home, the Government of Canada is creating a special financial assistance program, the COVID-19 Emergency Loan Program for Canadians Abroad. With this program, Canadian abroad directly impacted by COVID-19 will have the option of applying for an emergency loan of up to $5,000 to help secure their timely return to Canada and to temporarily cover their life-sustaining needs while they work toward their return. 

Ensure that you have sufficient finances and necessities, including medication, in case your travels are disrupted.

Click here to access this program: https://www.canada.ca/en/global-affairs/news/2020/03/government-of-canada-to-provide-financial-assistance-to-canadians-abroad.html

More information: https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/health-safety/travel-health-notices/221

Either me or my family member is outside of Canada and is affected by travel bans. What should we do?

Canadians traveling outside of Canada in need of emergency consular assistance can contact Global Affairs Canada’s 24/7 Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa at +1 613 996 8885 or email sos@international.gc.ca.

For more information: https://travel.gc.ca/assistance/emergency-assistance

What is happening at the Canadian border?

Until June 30, 2020, travel to Canada will be restricted for all foreign nationals coming from any country.

Travel restrictions across the Canada-U.S. border took effect on March 21. That agreement exempted the flow of trade and commerce, as well as vital health-care workers such as nurses who live and work on opposite sides of the border. Set to last 30 days, terms of the arrangement were due to expire on April 21. However, recently, Canada and the United States found a mutual agreement to extend the current closure of the border for another 30 days.

Restrictions and exemptions for foreign nationals

Foreign nationals may not enter Canada by air or marine if they are arriving from a foreign country.

The following exceptions apply:

  • immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents
  • persons registered as Indians under the Indian Act
  • persons with written authorization from a consular officer of the Government of Canada to enter Canada for the purpose of reuniting immediate family members
  • airline or marine crew members
  • diplomats and immediate family members, including representatives from the United Nations and international organizations
  • foreign nationals invited by the Canadian government to assist in the COVID-19 response
  • persons arriving in an aircraft operated by the Canadian Forces or the Department of National Defence
  • members of the Canadian military, visiting forces, and their family members
  • protected persons with a convention refugee travel document
  • French citizens who live in St. Pierre and Miquelon (SPM) who have only been in SPM, the U.S. or Canada during the previous14 days
  • persons who, in the opinion of Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer either:
    • do not pose a risk of significant harm to the public health, or
    • will provide essential service while in Canada
  • passengers transiting through Canada to another country
    • transiting passengers will be subject to any travel bans and restrictions the third country has in place

Restrictions and exemptions for Canadian and U.S. citizensAs of March 21, 2020, there is a 30-day restriction on all non-essential travel at the Canada-U.S. border.

This restriction covers all travel of an optional or discretionary nature, such as:

  • tourism
  • entertainment
  • recreation

Healthy people who must cross the border for work or other essential purposes, such as medical care, may continue to do so.

Some examples of essential travel purposes are:

  • work and study
  • economic services and supply chains
  • critical infrastructure support
  • health, immediate medical care, safety and security
  • shopping for essential goods such as medication or goods necessary for the health and safety of an individual or family

Canada and the U.S. recognize how closely our economies are integrated. It is essential that trade continue during this pandemic. Economic supply chains remain open and we will work to ensure that access to goods and services is not interrupted.

Crossing the border

Entry screening is an important public health tool. Canada Border Services Agency officers are trained to perform entry screening.

They will ask U.S. travellers and foreign nationals about the purpose of their visit and whether they are feeling ill or unwell.  They may also ask other questions.

Some Canadians and Americans, such as truck drivers, firefighters and nurses, cross the border every day to work or study. They will not be impacted by the new border measures. 

All international passenger flight arrivals have been redirected to one of 4 airports:

  • Calgary International Airport
  • Vancouver International Airport
  • Toronto’s Pearson International Airport
  • Montréal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport

Self-isolation for returning travellers who are permitted to enter or return to Canada are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days upon entry. There are exceptions for workers who are essential to the movement of goods and people. Individuals should avoid contact with other people for 14 days, while monitoring themselves closely for symptoms.

When showing signs and symptoms of infection

If you are Canadian or a permanent resident, and you have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, you may still enter Canada by land, rail or marine. You may not enter Canada by air, to protect the health of all travellers.

If you are not Canadian or a permanent resident, and you have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, you will not be permitted to enter Canada. 

If you show signs of an infectious disease, officials will contact a quarantine officer.
The quarantine officer will perform a more detailed assessment. If necessary, the quarantine officer may:

  • order you to be transported to hospital to undergo a medical examination
  • inform the local public health authority

Click here fore more information: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/canadas-reponse.html?topic=tilelink#economic

Returning Canadians

All travellers returning from outside Canada are required to self-isolate for 14 days and monitor for symptoms.

You will be asked if you have a cough, difficulty breathing or fever. If you have any of these symptoms, you will be given instructions on the next steps you are required to take. If you do not have any of these symptoms, you will be asked to do the following:

  •  Self-isolate for 14 days after your return to Canada. Some provinces and territories may have specific recommendations for certain groups such as health care workers. Self-isolate means:
    • stay home and keep your distance from others
    • do not have visitors, especially older adults, or those with medical conditions who are at a higher risk of developing serious illness
  • Monitor your health for fever, cough or difficulty breathing.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your arm when coughing or sneezing.

More information here: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/about-covid-19/travel

FINANCIAL SUPPORT QUESTIONS & INFORMATION

Are my Canadian income taxes still due in April?

In order to provide greater flexibility to Canadians who may be experiencing hardships during the COVID-19 outbreak, the Canada Revenue Agency will defer the filing due date for the 2019 tax returns of individuals, including certain trusts. 

  • For individuals (other than trusts), the return filing due date will be deferred until June 1, 2020.  However, the Agency encourages individuals who expect to receive benefits under the GSTC or the Canada Child Benefit not to delay the filing of their return to ensure their entitlements for the 2020-21 benefit year are properly determined.
  • For trusts having a taxation year ending on December 31, 2019, the return filing due date will be deferred until May 1, 2020.

​The Canada Revenue Agency will allow all taxpayers to defer, until after August 31, 2020, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing on or after today and before September 2020.

This relief would apply to tax balances due, as well as instalments, under Part I of the Income Tax Act. No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts during this period. 

​In order to reduce the necessity for taxpayers and tax preparers to meet in person during this difficult time, and to reduce administrative burden, effective immediately the Canada Revenue Agency will recognize electronic signatures as having met the signature requirements of the Income Tax Act, as a temporary administrative measure. This provision applies to authorization forms T183 or T183CORP, which are forms that are signed in person by millions of Canadians every year to authorize tax preparers to file taxes.

For more information: https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency.html

I receive Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) and/or GST Rebate, should I wait to June 1st to file my taxes?

We encourage you to file your income tax and benefit return electronically and as early as possible before June 1, 2020, to make sure your benefits and credits are not interrupted.

You are encouraged to register for direct deposit on CRA’s My Account self-service portal, as this is the quickest and most reliable way to get benefit and credit payments.

For more information: https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/campaigns/covid-19-update.html#individuals

I receive the Canada Child Benefit. Should I wait to June 1st to file my taxes?

We encourage you to file your income tax and benefit return electronically and as early as possible before June 1, 2020, to make sure your benefits and credits are not interrupted.

​You are encouraged to register for direct deposit on CRA’s My Account self-service portal, as this is the quickest and most reliable way to get benefit and credit payments.

For more information: https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/campaigns/covid-19-update.html#individuals

What if I can’t pay my mortgage during this crisis?

The Minister of Finance is in regular contact with the heads of Canada’s large banks, and continues to encourage them to show flexibility in helping their customers whose personal or business finances are affected by COVID-19. The Superintendent of Financial Institutions has also made clear his expectation that banks will use the additional lending capacity provided by recent government actions to support Canadian businesses and households.

In response, banks in Canada have affirmed their commitment to working with customers to provide flexible solutions, on a case-by-case basis, for managing through hardships caused by recent developments. This may include situations such as pay disruption, childcare disruption, or illness. Canada’s large banks have confirmed that this support will include up to a 6-month payment deferral for mortgages, and the opportunity for relief on other credit products. These targeted measures respond to immediate challenges being faced across the country and will help stabilize the Canadian economy.

Mortgage Default Management Tools

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and other mortgage insurers offer tools to lenders that can assist homeowners who may be experiencing financial difficulty. These include payment deferral, loan re-amortization, capitalization of outstanding interest arrears and other eligible expenses, and special payment arrangements.

The Government, through CMHC, is providing increased flexibility for homeowners facing financial difficulties to defer mortgage payments on homeowner CMHC-insured mortgage loans. CMHC will permit lenders to allow payment deferral beginning immediately.

Are you laid off because of COVID-19 and qualify for Employment Insurance?

Click here for more information: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-regular-benefit/eligibility.html

Are you sick, under quarantine, or caring for someone sick and are eligible for Employment Insurance?

Click here for more information: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-sickness.html

Support for people facing unemployment due to COVID-19

The new Canada Emergency Response Benefit

The Government of Canada  will provide a taxable benefit of $2,000 a month for up to 4 months to:

  • workers who must stop working due to COVID19 and do not have access to paid leave or other income support.
  • workers who are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19.
  • working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children that are sick or need additional care because of school and daycare closures.
  • workers who still have their employment but are not being paid because there is currently not sufficient work and their employer has asked them not to come to work.
  • wage earners and self-employed individuals, including contract workers, who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance.

Application details will be available through My CRA and My Service Canada, beginning the first week of April.

Support for businesses

Supporting Canadian Business through the Canada Account

The government is changing the Canada Account so that the Minister of Finance would now be able to determine the limit of the Canada Account in order to deal with exceptional circumstances. The Canada Account is administered by Export Development Canada (EDC) and is used by the government to support exporters when deemed to be in the national interest. This will allow the government to provide additional support to Canadian companies through loans, guarantees or insurance policies during these challenging times.

Extending Work-Sharing program

​The Government of Canada is Implementing the EI Work Sharing Program, which provides EI benefits to workers who agree to reduce their normal working hour as a result of developments beyond the control of their employers, by extending the eligibility of such agreements to 76 weeks, easing eligibility requirements, and streamlining the application process. 

Click here to apply: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/services/work-sharing/apply.html

Helping Businesses Keep their Workers

To support businesses that are facing revenue losses and to help prevent lay-offs, the government is proposing to provide eligible small employers a temporary 75% wage subsidy for a period of three months. Businesses will be able to benefit immediately from this support by reducing their remittances of income tax withheld on their employees’ remuneration. Employers benefiting from this measure will include corporations eligible for the small business deduction, as well as non-profit organizations and charities.

Click here for more information: https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/campaigns/covid-19-update/frequently-asked-questions-wage-subsidy-small-businesses.html

Flexibility for Businesses Filing Taxes

The Canada Revenue Agency will allow all businesses to defer, until after August 31, 2020, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing on or after today and before September 2020.  This relief would apply to tax balances due, as well as instalments, under Part I of the Income Tax Act. No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts during this period. 

The Canada Revenue Agency will not contact any small or medium (SME) businesses to initiate any post assessment GST/HST or Income Tax audits for the next four weeks. For the vast majority of businesses, the Canada Revenue Agency will temporarily suspend audit interaction with taxpayers and representatives.
The Liaison Officer service offers help to owners of small businesses to understand their tax obligations. Traditionally available in-person, this service is now available over the phone and will be customizing information during these challenging times by ensuring small businesses are aware of any changes such as filing and payment deadlines, proactive relief measures, etc.

​Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP)

the government is establishing this program to support financing in the private sector through the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and Export Development Canada (EDC).

​Here are the current options available:

  • Small Business Loan: Up to $100,000 can be obtained online.
  • Working capital loan: For loans over $100,000 and can support everyday operations.
  • Purchase Order Financing: Loans to fulfill domestic or international orders.

If you have specific questions about applying for funding, BDC can be reached at the toll-free number: 1-877-232-2269 Monday to Friday, from 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Eastern Time) and Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Eastern Time).

Support for farmers

​The Government of Canada has increased credit available to farmers and the agri-food sector through Farm Credit Canada.

Additional financial support for Canadians

For over 12 million low- and modest-income families, who may require additional help with their finances, the Government is proposing to provide a one-time special payment by early May 2020 through the Goods and Services Tax credit (GSTC). This will double the maximum annual GSTC payment amounts for the 2019-20 benefit year. The average boost to income for those benefitting from this measure will be close to $400 for single individuals and close to $600 for couples. 

​For over 3.5 million families with children, who may also require additional support, the Government is proposing to increase the maximum annual Canada Child Benefit (CCB) payment amounts, only for the 2019-20 benefit year, by $300 per child. The overall increase for families receiving CCB will be approximately $550 on average; these families will receive an extra $300 per child as part of their May payment.

For more information click here: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/news/2020/03/canadas-covid-19-economic-response-plan-support-for-canadians-and-businesses.html#Income_Support_for


BC PROVINCIAL SUPPORT

I still have to work. Is it safe for me and what if I have to stay home?

At WorkSafeBC, we are actively monitoring and adjusting to the COVID-19 situation to determine how we can best support workers, providers, and employers around the province, while ensuring the health and safety needs of our own employees. 

For more information click here: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/about-us/covid-19-updates/health-and-safety/what-workers-should-do

What provincial supports are available to me if I can’t work?

BC Emergency Benefit for Workers

The BC Emergency Benefit for Workers will provide a one-time $1,000 payment to people who lost income because of COVID-19.

Climate Action Tax Credit

A one-time enhancement to the climate action tax credit will be paid in July 2020 for moderate to low-income families:

  • An adult will receive up to $218.00 (increased from $174.00)
  • A child will receive $64.00 (increased from $51.00)

B.C. Student Loans

Starting March 30, 2020, B.C. student loan payments are automatically frozen for six months. 

BC Hydro

  • Customers can defer bill payments or arrange for flexible payment plans with no penalty through the COVID-19 Customer Assistance Program
  • Customers experiencing job loss, illness or lost wages due to COVID-19 can access grants up to $600 to pay their hydro bills through the Customer Crisis Fund

ICBC

Customers on a monthly payment plan who are facing financial challenges due to COVID-19 may defer their payment for up to 90 days with no penalty

For more information click here: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/employment-business/covid-19-financial-supports#BCEBW

I work for myself or own a small business, what can I expect in terms of support?

Deferred Tax Payments

Effective immediately, B.C. is extending filing and payment deadlines for the following taxes until September 30, 2020:

  • Employer health tax
  • Provincial sales tax (including municipal and regional district tax)
  • Carbon tax
  • Motor fuel tax
  • Tobacco tax

Delayed Carbon Tax Increase

Carbon tax rates will remain at their current levels until further notice. The tax measure announced in Budget 2020 aligning the carbon tax rates with the federal carbon pricing backstop is also postponed until further notice.

​Reduced School Tax Rates for Businesses

School tax rates for commercial properties (Classes 4, 5 and 6) will be reduced by 50% for the 2020 tax year.

For more information click here: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/employment-business/covid-19-financial-supports#BCEBW

If you have any other questions or concerns not answered above, please do not hesitate to email my office at kerry-lynne.findlay@parl.gc.ca