The COVID-19 pandemic has been reported from 196 countries, areas and territories across the world. Currently the United States has surpassed both Italy and Spain to report the highest number of cases of COVID-19. To ease the economic strain caused by the pandemic both Canada and the United States have passed economic stimulus packages. The U.S. Congress has passed the largest stimulus package announced by any nation to overcome the financial consequences of COVID-19. President Trump has set up a Coronavirus Task Forces to monitor the situation under Vice President Pence. Prime Minister Trudeau has also created a new cabinet committee on COVID-19. Both nations are working to find a cure to the disease with the United States approving trial for a drug.
On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the COVID-19 global outbreak as a pandemic. More than 6,38,146 cases of the COVID-19 have been reported from 196countries, areas and territories with 30,039 deaths (as on 28 March 2020). It has affected all continents (except Antarctica), countries that are developed and developing and pushed governments to find adequate responses to prevent its spread. For the moment, all governments and healthcare workers agree that social distancing is the best method to reduce the spread of the virus. They are mandating that people should avoid all non-essential travel, even within their neighbourhoods, social gatherings and cooperate with officials as they fight this pandemic. With no vaccine available as yet, nations are addressing the crisis by learning from each other while working towards finding a cure.
Canada and the United States: Responses to the Pandemic
Both Canada and the United States have reported COVID-19 cases. ‘The first confirmed case in Canada was reported in February. Since then Canada has 6,255 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 61 deaths (as of 29 March 2020).’ Prime Minister Justine Trudeau observed self-isolation after his wife tested positive for the virus and has used his own example to ask Canadians to practise social distancing and self-isolation. He created a Cabinet Committee on the federal response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister and vice-chaired by the President of the Treasury Board, the committee meets regularly to ensure whole-of-government leadership, coordination, and preparedness to limit the health, economic and social impacts of the virus.
Prime Minister Trudeau practising self-isolation
The Public Health Agency of Canada has announced that it would be working in close collaboration with provinces, territories and international partners, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), to actively monitor the situation. Canada has issued a Level 3 public advisory asking its citizens to avoid all non-essential travel. It has made it mandatory for all passengers to self-isolate for 14 days and to monitor their health. If they exhibit any symptoms they must immediately contact health officials. Officials have also been told to not allow any passenger who presents symptoms of COVID-19 virus from boarding a plane.
‘To help stranded Canadians abroad, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne stated that Canadians abroad impacted by COVID-19 will be eligible for an emergency loan of up to $5,000. For Canadians who cannot find a way home immediately, the government has ensured support through partnerships with local organisations in addition to existing consular services.’ While various provinces in the country have declared a state of emergency, Prime Minister Trudeau has not yet declared a national emergency. He has stated that the provisions of the emergency act would be applied only if existing regulations become inadequate. The Canadian government has been criticised for this decision along with a delay in placing travel restrictions and closing of borders for the increased number of cases in Canada. Nonetheless, extensive testing and adequate response has helped reduce the spread of the disease.
Total Number of Cases in Canada (as on 29 March 2020)
Source: Government of Canada, https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-navirus-infection.html?topic=tilelink#a1
‘The Canadian government has also implemented a COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, a stimulus package of C$ 202 billion (US$ 145 billion) which include wage subsidies, government-backed credit lines and more tax deferrals to inject cash into the country’s nearly 1.2 million small- and medium-sized businesses.’ “The plan is expected to provide up to C$ 27 billion in direct support to Canadian workers and businesses, plus C$ 55 billion to meet liquidity needs of Canadian businesses and households through tax deferrals to help stabilise the economy. The package also includes up to C$ 50 million to women’s shelters and sexual assault centres, including facilities in Indigenous communities, to help with their capacity to manage or prevent an outbreak. C $7.5 million in funding to Kids Help Phone to provide young people with the mental health support they need during this difficult time. The Government of Canada will contribute C$ 9 million through United Way Canada for local organisations to support practical services to Canadian seniors. These services could include the delivery of groceries, medications, or other needed items, or personal outreach to assess individuals’ needs and connect them to community supports. This plan builds on coordinated action taken since the beginning of this outbreak, including the more than C$ 1 billion COVID-19 Response Fund, which provided funding to provinces and territories to strengthen critical health care systems.” ‘Bank of Canada has also announced that it would begin large scale asset purchases for the first time in an effort to help Canadian businesses. The government also announced that they would provide relief in the future including for oil, gas and the airline industry.’
Canada is also working with the United States and has closed the border to non-essential movement. The United States has also restricted movement on its southern border with Mexico. All 50 states in the United States have reported cases of COVID-19 to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with most states reporting community spread of the virus. The United States has reported 1,22,653 cases and 2,112 deaths (till 29 March 2020).
Two members of the U.S. Congressmen, Mario Diaz-Balart (R.Florida) and Ben McAdams, (D.Utah) have tested positive for the virus. The United States now has the highest number of positive cases surpassing Italy and Spain and China. Majority of the cases are from the state of New York (close to 40,000 cases), particularly New York City. A possible reason for it could be the city being a major financial hub and tourist destination as well as being a major transit point for the rest of America and Canada and Mexico.
Source: Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/cases-in-us.html#reporting-cases
For the moment, different parts of the country are reporting different levels of COVID-19 cases. Washington state has reported 3207 cases, California 3777 cases while at the other end South Dakota has reported 46 cases only (as on 29 March 2020). CDC established a COVID-19 Incident Management System on January 7, 2020. On January 21, CDC activated its Emergency Operations Centre to better provide ongoing support to the COVID-19 response. It is conducting extensive outreach to clinical and hospital professional organisations to ensure health system preparedness. To contain the spread of the virus, ‘the Department of State advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19. In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.’ 'Foreign nationals who have been in China, Iran, the United Kingdom, Ireland and any one of the 26 European countries in the Schengen Area within the past 14 days cannot enter the United States. All international travellers have to stay at home for 14 days and take steps to monitor their health and practise social distancing’ 'Due to extensive community transmission of COVID -19 in the area, CDC issued a domestic travel advisory urging residents of New York, New Jersey (6876 cases), and Connecticut (1012 cases) to refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days effective immediately.’
A number of states such as California and New York, have announced emergency measure and lockdowns in their efforts to curtail the spread of the virus. President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency and established a Coronavirus Task Force under the leadership of Vice President Mike Pence.
US Government Coronavirus Task Force
Under these federal emergency authorisations, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved new test for the virus. President Trump has also signed into legislation a US $100 billion coronavirus aid package that includes provisions for emergency paid leaves as well as free testing. In further steps to aid the economy, the U.S. Congress has also approved a US $ 2.2 trillion economic stimulus package to help overcome the economic setbacks because of the virus. ‘The bill would extend $1,200 to most American adults and $500 for most children, create a $500 billion lending program for businesses, cities and states, and a establish a $367 billion employee retention fund for small businesses. It would direct $130 billion to hospitals and provide four months of expanded unemployment insurance.’ The bill also expands unemployment benefits to those who were self employed. The U.S. Congress, the administration and other business leaders and social workers are also preparing the details of another possible emergency spending package to ensure support to all American and business.
Two Nations, Two Responses
Both Canada and the United States have responded differently to the COVID-19 Pandemic. In Canada the federal and provincial governments have responded in a united manner to urge Canadians to follow healthcare officials advise and remain indoors. In the United States, governors of various states have taken the lead. The Governor of New York state shut all non-essential business days ago, while his counters parts in Maryland, Wisconsin and Oregon among others are drafting or implementing enhanced ‘stay at home guidelines’. They have stressed that the states will remain under lockdown till advised otherwise by health officials and differ with President Trumps views that he “… would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter….It would be a beautiful time, a beautiful timeline. ” “The President has made it clear that he hopes — in weeks, not months — to be able to open up the country.” The discussion has revolved around a phased and geographical location based opening. The idea is to allow some Americans to return to work and gradually open the whole economy. Statements and tweets by President Trump such as “HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine. The FDA has moved mountains - Thank You! Hopefully they will BOTH (H works better with A, International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents)…..” (Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump, 21 March 2020) have added to confusion and misinformation. Health officials have called for considered and accurate information to be distributed and cautioned people from self medication. They have also advised Americans to stay at home and warned against suspending lockdowns stating that it would lead to an increase in number of cases as the United States continues to report cases. The shortage of critical medical supplies and the responses from the White House has further added to the crisis. White House senior advisor Larry Kudlow has acknowledged that the virus is not ‘contained’ and would require a coordinated effort.
In Canada, the federal and provincial governments have largely let health officials guide the public on steps. It needs to be stated that in 2003, Canada was overwhelmed by the SARS. Lessons learnt from that experience have been used agains the COVID-19 virus. Canada started to test for COVID-19 every soon after the first cases were reported. It has made it free or low cost and has the tests available for virus screening for patients who show any symptoms of COVID-19 such as cough and fevers. It also ensured that there were adequate testing facilities, test kits and labs in each province. By catching cases early and investigating their origin, Canada has been able to blunt the impact of the virus. ‘America’s failure to provide quick and easily accessible testing to people suspected to have the coronavirus has been a central thrust of criticism about the U.S. response to the threat from the global pandemic.’ For a long time the CDC’s lab based in Atlanta was the only one lab conducting tests for COVID-19 leading to backlog and delay. Currently, the United States has expanded such facilities and private labs have been made part of the efforts to screen suspected cases. The recent passage of the economic stimulus bill has called for extensive free testing which should help reduce the numbers in the coming weeks.
Short time quarantine along with large scale testing had been the most effect response to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Nonetheless, while healthcare workers and systems across the world work tirelessly to contain the virus, there is now a need to plan for the long battle ahead. As testing become more available it is likely that the number of positive COVID-19 cases will rise worldwide. It is possible that as the United States and other countries make progress on finding a cure, cooperation at a global level would be required. The nature of the disease is such that the threat would continue as other nations report positive cases. There is an urgent need for nations to cooperate to find a cure for COVID-19 and to ensure that it is available to all.
*Dr. Stuti Banerjee, Research Fellow, Indian Council of World Affairs.
Disclaimer: The views expressed are that of the Researcher and not of the Council.
Statistics has been taken from World Health Organisation, https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/685d0ace521648f8a5beeeee1b9125cd, Accessed on 29 March 2020
 Government of Canada, “Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Outbreak update,” https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection.html?topic=tilelink, Accessed on 30 March 2020
 Level 1 advisory is to practise usual health precautions. Level 2 advisory is practise special precautions such as additional vaccinations. Level 3 is to avoid all non-essential travel.
 Rachel Aiello, “Canada shutting the border to most non-citizens due to COVID-19: PM Trudeau,”https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/canada-shutting-the-border-to-most-non-citizens-due-to-covid-19-pm-trudeau-1.4854503, Accessed on 22 March 2020
 Kait Bolongaro and Shelly Hagan, “Trudeau Unleashes Cash Drop in Bid to Revive Canada’s Economy,” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-27/trudeau-unveils-75-wage-subsidy-to-help-companies-survive-virus, Accessed on 30 March 2020.
 Prime Minister Justine Trudeau, “Prime Minister announces more support for workers and businesses through Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan,” https://pm.gc.ca/en/news/news-releases/2020/03/18/prime-minister-announces-more-support-workers-and-businesses-through and "Prime Minister announces support for vulnerable Canadians affected by COVID‑19”, https://pm.gc.ca/en/news/news-releases/2020/03/29/prime-minister-announces-support-vulnerable-canadians-affected-covid, Accessed on 30 March 2020.
 Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, “Cases in the U.S.”, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/cases-in-us.html, Accessed on 26 March 2020.
 Figure taken from Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/cases-in-us.html#reporting-cases, Accessed on 30 March 2020.
 Op.cit 8 Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, “Cases in the U.S.”, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/cases-in-us.html, Accessed on 26 March 2020.
 U.S. Department of State, “Global Level 4 Health Advisory – Do Not Travel,” https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/ea/travel-advisory-alert-global-level-4-health-advisory-issue.html, Accessed on 30 March 2020.
 Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, “Situational Summary,” https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/summary.html#cdc-response, Accessed on 22 March 2020.
 Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, “CDC Issues Domestic Travel Advisory for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut,” https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2020/s038-travel-advisory.html, Accessed on 30 March 2020
 Erica Werner, Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane, “Senate approves $2.2 trillion coronavirus bill aimed at slowing economic free fall,” https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/25/trump-senate-coronavirus-economic-stimulus-2-trillion/, Accessed on 30 March 2020
 The White House, “Remarks by President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Members of the Coronavirus Task Force in a Fox News Virtual Town Hall” https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-vice-president-pence-members-coronavirus-task-force-fox-news-virtual-town-hall/ and “Remarks by President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Members of Coronavirus Task Force in Press Briefing,” https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-vice-president-pence-members-coronavirus-task-force-press-briefing-10/, Accessed on 30 March 2020.
 Ed Pilkington, “Why has coronavirus testing in the US been such a disaster?”, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/13/coronavirus-testing-us, Accessed on 30 March 2020.