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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses Canadians on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on April 14, 2020.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The federal government will transfer $72.6-million to the territorial governments of Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut to support their health and social-service responses to COVID-19, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday.

It is important to ensure all Canadians can access essential health care as the pandemic evolves, Mr. Trudeau said, adding that Ottawa is working with territorial governments to address the needs of those in the North.

“If you live in the North, chances are you’re worried about your local health centre has the resources to fight COVID-19 and to cope with cases that might come up,” he said at a news conference.

Yukon has eight confirmed cases of COVID-19 while the Northwest Territories has five and Nunavut has none.

Public-health officials are concerned that health systems in the North could face additional challenges as they respond to the impact of the virus.

The federal government is also earmarking $17.3-million for the territorial governments to support Northern air carriers. It said the funding is designed to ensure a continued supply of food, medical supplies and other essential goods and services to remote and fly-in communities.

The Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, known as CanNor, will also make $15-million in non-repayable support available for businesses in the territories to help address the impacts of COVID-19.

“I know entrepreneurs in the North have been hit especially hard by this crisis,” Mr. Trudeau said.

“If you own a business and your costs aren’t already covered by other measures that we’ve put in place, we’re giving CanNor more funding to help.”

CanNor’s strong relationships with territorial governments position the agency to ensure businesses can access funding where it is needed the most, said Minister of Economic Development Mélanie Joly.

An additional $25-million is also being provided to Nutrition North Canada, a subsidy program designed to make food more affordable and accessible to eligible isolated communities.

“This will make it easier to afford the food and basics that keep you and your family healthy," Mr. Trudeau said.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh welcomed the announcements by the Prime Minister on Tuesday, adding that Northern communities are in need of additional help.

In an interview, Mr. Singh said the investments are important in the short term in response to the pandemic but he urged the federal government to consider additional investment in the long term.

“It is the existing inadequate infrastructure that means that these communities are more vulnerable to things like COVID-19 to spread, if you don’t have adequate housing and people are living in overcrowded conditions," Mr. Singh said.

The Conservatives were not immediately available to comment on Tuesday.

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