Major Canadian labor unions on Thursday said the aviation sector would suffer permanent damage unless Ottawa provided a C$7 billion ($5.3 billion) 10-year low-interest loan to offset the effects of the coronavirus outbreak, which has slashed travel.

The unions, which represent more than 310,000 workers, said in a statement that Canada remained the only leading developed nation not to have unveiled concrete measures to help the travel and tourism sector.

“We need urgent funds for the aviation sector or there won’t be Canadian airlines, and that will cost us all much more,” said Jerry Dias of Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union.

The unions also want direct financial aid tied to the resumption and maintenance of air services.

The federal Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeatedly said it is looking at aid for the aviation sector but has yet to make any announcements.

“Airlines are extremely capital-intensive operations with a high cash-burn rate and the requirement to preserve liquidity to maintain equipment, routes and staff,” the unions said.

The office of federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau was not immediately available for comment.

Air Canada, the nation’s largest carrier, wants Ottawa to relax travel restrictions which stipulate that people arriving from abroad must go into quarantine for 14 days to make sure they do not spread the virus.

Separately on Thursday, Air Canada said it was finalizing an initial order for 25,000 rapid testing kits from Abbott Laboratories.

Dr. Jim Chung, the carrier’s chief medical officer, said rapid testing was “a means to enable governments to relax current blanket travel restrictions and quarantines in a measured way”.

Source: REUTERS

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