Canada to ramp up production of medical supplies, turn back asylum seekers to fight COVID-19

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a series of extreme new measures Friday to protect Canadians from COVID-19, including a strategy to help manufacturers rapidly ramp up production of medical supplies and a plan to bar asylum seekers from crossing the Canada-U.S. border.

Trudeau described the measures as part of an unprecedented but necessary response to an emergency that many are comparing to wartime and the Great Depression.

Trudeau said the industrial strategy will allow companies already making sanitizers, masks and other equipment to scale up quickly, while mobilizing others to shift production to items that are in high demand.

The federal government has a reciprocal agreement with the U.S. through which Canada will now be returning irregular migrants who attempt to cross anywhere at the Canada-U.S. border. Trudeau called it an “exceptional measure” to protect Canadians.

The agreement, which Trudeau said was signed earlier today, will stop asylum-seekers from entering Canada at Roxham Road in Quebec. The development comes just one day after the government announced all border-crossers would be under quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, and that the federal government was looking for space to shelter the arrivals.

An agreement to close the Canada-U.S. border to all non-essential travellers is set to kick in at midnight. The border will remain open for trade and commerce to ensure a stable supply chain for goods.

The government has announced an $82-billion package to help Canadians and businesses deal with the financial impact of the crisis. Today, Trudeau said 500,000 Canadians have already applied for employment insurance benefits, compared to 27,000 in the same week last year.

Trudeau also announced a repatriation flight to bring home Canadians stranded in Morocco will take place this weekend. Talks are underway with airlines for other repatriation flights.

CBC News has special coverage of Trudeau’s address to the nation, followed by a news conference with cabinet ministers and health officials beginning at 11 a.m. Watch it here on

Senior government sources have told CBC News they’re hoping to work with existing manufacturers — especially of gloves, masks and ventilators — on a supply chain that’s resistant to disruption.

In addition, sources say, almost every program within the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development will be “refocused” on fighting the virus. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to speak publicly.


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