Coronavirus updates for March 29: $3-million emergency grant goes to Food Banks British Columbia

The latest news on the novel coronavirus from Vancouver, B.C., and across Canada

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      9:03 a.m.

      Food banks in B.C. will receive a cash injection, courtesy of the province's community gaming grants program.

      According to a government news release, it will come in the form of a $3-million emergency grant to Food Banks British Columbia, which will distribute the funds.

      “We know that many British Columbia families count on food banks to supplement their weekly grocery needs," parliamentary secretary for poverty reduction Mable Elmore said. "To help ensure that people continue to have access to the food they need, our government is taking steps by supporting B.C. food banks so they can, in turn, keep meeting the needs of the people in the communities they serve.

      “Using funds from the gaming grants program is an example of how government and nonprofit partners are working together to respond to the evolving nature of the pandemic, easing the burden on B.C.’s food banks and helping people who are feeling the strain of the COVID-19 crisis.”

      The community gaming grant's 2019-20 budget is $140 million.

      Justin Trudeau says he's hopeful that social-distancing measures will keep the number of COVID-19 cases low enough so that the health system can handle all of them.

      8:30 a.m. Justin Trudeau won't rule out use of Canadian Armed Forces in response to COVID-19

      In his daily briefing to reporters, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau opened the door to the possibility of calling in the military to address the pandemic.

      Trudeau acknowledged that his government is looking at various scenarios, including making use of the Canadian Armed Forces. 

      "But we're not at that stage yet," the prime minister said. "We will continue our dicussions with the provinces and the various regions to do what is necessary."

      This came as Quebec police have set up barriers on some roads to keep out visitors.

      As of yesterday, there were 2,498 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Quebec, with nearly half of them in Montreal. That was more than double the number of any other province.

      In his briefing, Trudeau also urged Canadians to donate money or volunteer to help their favourite organizations.

      "Tough times fall first and hardest on the most vulnerable in our communities, but we can change that," he said.

      The federal government has pledged $7.5 million to fund, which can be reached in French and English at 1-800-668-6868 and by text at 686868.

      In addition, the government is providing $9 million to the New Horizons for Seniors Program, which funds community-based projects and national initiatives.

      According to Migrante Canada, most of the workers at the Lynn Valley Care Centre are middle aged women who trace their roots back to the Philippines.

      7:14 a.m. Migrante Canada thanks kababayan during crisis

      In languages of the Philippines, kababayan literally means "townmate", but it's often used to refer to others who trace their roots back to the country.

      This weekend, a group that helps overseas Filipino migrants, Migrante Canada, offered effusive praise to kababayan who've been on the frontlines dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.

      The appreciation was expressed not only for doctors and nurses, but also for home-care workers, care aides, hospital workers, housekeeping staff, cleaners, food-service and retail workers, farm workers, domestic workers, bus and delivery drivers, truckers, warehouse workers, those in essential manufacturing, and daycare workers.

      Migrante Canada noted that the Lynn Valley Care Centre—where 11 have died and 19 care workers tested positive—was almost entirely staffed by middle-aged Filipina Canadians, who were not unionized and who were on subcontracts.

      "Because of the outbreak, health care workers who worked casual shifts in multiple facilities were directed to work at only one facility, which meant not only a severe cut in the income of these workers but also a reduction of staff in the other facility," the letter stated.

      Migrante Canada emphasized that the COVID-19 crisis "exposes the need for systemic changes in the health sector such as improved wages and benefits for workers and the need for unionization instead of privatization".

      "We are putting it out here: not only are we all in this together, but we are here for each other," Migrante Canada declared. "We raise the spirit of bayanihan, our Filipino value of helping each other and looking after each other."

      6:33 a.m. 99-year-old man defies the odds

      CBC Radio's morning newscast reported that a 99-year-old West Vancouver man, Reuben Huva, has fully recovered from COVID-19. He contracted it as a resident of Hollyburn House.

      His daughter, retired doctor Linda Hoorspool, did not think that he would survive.

      6 a.m. Layoff undermines coronavirus vaccine research

      A senior research scientist at the University of Alberta has criticized the Jason Kenney government for cutting funding to the postsecondary sector.

      Michael Joyce, who's based at the Katz Center for Health Research, said over Twitter that biosafety staff have done important work at a facility at the university, where research is being conducted into antivirals and vaccines.

      "One of them was laid off suddenly yesterday due to the provincial budget cuts to the university," Joyce declared. "This decreases our ability to combat Covid-19. It is irresponsible and unbelievable, and it falls at the feet of our UCP government."