Justin Trudeau pledges aid for Canadians stranded abroad, encourages strict social distancing

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At a March 17 press conference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that Global Affairs has set up an emergency fund to help Canadians who are still abroad and unable to return home immediately. 

Trudeau also said that he doesn't know how long social distancing measures will need to be in place, adding that they could last "weeks" or "months." 

At the conference, Trudeau also praised the Ontario government for enacting a State of Emergency and encouraged as much social distancing a possible. 

"Ontario is taking the right step. It makes sense for the circumstances on the ground," Trudeau told reporters. 

The State of Emergency allows the province to enforce the closure of non-essential businesses rather than just recommend them. 

Trudeau also recognized the work of all healthcare workers, including the retired workers who have come back to help during the COVID-19 crises. 

At the conference, Trudeau said Global Affairs has set up an emergency loan program of up to $5,000 for people who need money quickly to come home or meet their needs while they're waiting to return. Anyone who needs help while abroad is asked to email SOS [at] gc [dot] ca.

Trudeau said that, at any moment, there are about 3 million Canadians traveling and working around the world. 

The Prime Minister says the government is working to support the economy and has announced a series of measures, including $10 billion to protect jobs and support businesses. New announcements on how the government will support workers directly will be made in the coming days.  

"We're working to protect people's jobs and the economy. There will be a new announcement tomorrow on economic activity to support Canadians," he said, adding that announcements about changes to tax season will be coming. 

Trudeau also said he's spoken to the House Leader about recalling the House of Common to bring forth legislation and examine the Emergency Measures Act to see if it will be needed. Trudeau also said it will be necessary to pass legislation around EI to ensure money gets into people's pockets. 

"Coordination between all parties is important," Trudeau said. 

Trudeau also said that Parks Canada is suspending visitor services as of Wednesday at all national parks and historic sites, adding that "pretty much anything with a door will be closed.”

Trudeau emphasized the need to listen to medical experts, including Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer. 

"Dr. Tam was clear about what we should and shouldn't be doing. Do wash your hands often, do sneeze into your elbow and don't gather in groups of more than 50 people," he said. 

Trudeau said that he knows that social distancing is difficult—especially on St. Patrick's Day.

"Lots of you had parties planned. Now is the time to find another way to celebrate at home. I know people would prefer to carry on as normal, I would too. But we must protect our health and the health of others," he said.

"As much as possible, stay home. Don't go out unless you absolutely have to. Let the kids run around the house. Things will get better. Our government will keep taking action."

Trudeau advised people to work from home if possible, connect with friends and family online or by phone, and order takeout instead of going out for dinner. 

"Canada, let's work together. I know we can do this."

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