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Canada announces Can$1 billion to counter virus impact

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Ottawa (AFP)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday announced the creation of a Can$1 billion fund to deal with the impact of the coronavirus epidemic.

"It will provide funding to provinces and territories to help them prepare for any possibility and to mitigate risks to Canadians," Trudeau said at a news conference.

Canada has had one death so far from 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and has nearly 100 confirmed cases.

The fund will be used to reinforce Canada's provincial health systems, and provide financial aid to Canadians forced to undergo isolation.

"No one should have to worry about their job if they have to be quarantined. No employer should feel like they have to lay off a worker because of the virus. We can support you. And we will," Trudeau said.

"Today's announcement is significant, but we are already preparing to do more, if need be."

He said easy access to credit would be made available to businesses facing a short-term cash crunch, and the government would work "to protect jobs and to be there for businesses."

Last week, the Bank of Canada announced an 0.5 percent cut in its key lending rate, warning that the spread of the virus represented a "material negative shock" to the Canadian and global economies.

The bank expects economic activity to slow in early 2020, and has said it is prepared to further cut rates if needed to support growth and keep inflation on target.

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