• Thu. Nov 26th, 2020

Trudeau urges Canadians to stay home as Covid-19 surges – Politico

“I don’t want to be here this morning. You don’t want me to be here this morning,” he began. “But here we are again. The cases across the country are spiking massively. We are facing a winter that’s going to drive people inside more and more. And we’re really at risk of seeing caseloads go up and hospitals get overwhelmed and more loved ones dying.”

Rising numbers: Canada’s six most populous provinces have seen dramatic spikes in Covid-19 cases during the past several weeks. The country is now averaging close to 5,000 new cases a day, far more than at any point during the first wave, with no sign that the curve is flattening. Nunavut, an isolated territory in the country’s far north that had not registered a single Covid-19 case until Nov. 6, has logged more than 70 cases in the last two weeks. More than 11,000 people have died of Covid-19 in Canada since the start of the pandemic.

On Friday, Canada’s chief public health officer outlined new modeling that painted a grim picture for the weeks to come and warned the country is “not on a good trajectory.” If people maintain their current number of contacts, Dr. Theresa Tam said, Canada could be logging 20,000 daily cases by the end of December. If contacts increase, that could surge to 60,000 new cases each day.

Individual provinces have begun imposing tighter restrictions in recent weeks. In Manitoba, the province with the highest rate of infection per capita, new rules coming into force Friday prevent people from having visitors in their homes and prohibit businesses from selling nonessential items. Other provinces, including Ontario and Alberta, have been more hesitant to impose new rules that would cause more pain to already struggling businesses. On Friday, however, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that Toronto and several surrounding cities will move into lockdown on Monday.

No national lockdown: Provinces have jurisdiction over public health decisions in Canada. But the patchwork of rules across provinces and regions has caused confusion, prompting calls from some quarters for Trudeau to use emergency powers to impose a national, coordinated response to the second wave. Trudeau, however, has remained adamant that he does not want to intrude on provincial decision-making. On Friday, he said using the federal Emergencies Act to restrict travel between provinces is “not an idea I am even contemplating right now.”

He also categorically rejected the idea of another nationwide lockdown like the one last spring that saw schools and businesses shuttered across the country. Given the situation isn’t the same in all regions, he said, targeted restrictions are a more effective approach. “It was somewhat simpler in the spring,” he said of the nationwide shutdown. “And it worked to bend that curve. But millions of Canadians suffered and it was a blunt object of a tool.”

At the same time, he called on premiers and mayors to impose restrictions in areas where the virus is surging and said the federal government will support businesses that are forced to temporarily shut their doors. “Going into lockdown and supporting businesses while we’re in that lockdown is a better way of ensuring their success in a few months, in a few years, than trying to tough through a virus that is running around unchecked,” he said.

On Thursday, the federal government passed new legislation that will extend wage and rent subsidies for businesses until next summer. Canada and the U.S. also confirmed this week that the border will remain closed at least until Dec. 21.

‘Long winter ahead.’ Trudeau urged people not to leave home if they don’t have to, not to have parties and to avoid seeing friends in person. “It’s the future of our country, it’s the future of our children, it’s the future of our loved ones and our seniors.”

Becoming visibly emotional, he asked people to think of exhausted health workers in hospitals now at risk of being overwhelmed. “They’re tired. They have been heroes. They have been going above and beyond anything they might have thought they were signing up for,” he said.

He acknowledged that recent news about two vaccine candidates that may soon be ready for use is reason for hope, but warned against becoming complacent. “We have a long winter ahead,” he said. “It’ll be tough, but we know what we have to do.”

Still, Trudeau and Canada’s top public health officials have yet to ask people not to have any gatherings over the holidays, though Trudeau said Friday that “a normal Christmas is quite frankly right out of the question.” On Thursday, Quebec Premier François Legault outlined his province’s plan for Christmas, which will allow people to gather in groups of up to 10 between Dec. 24 and 27, as long as they self-isolate for a week before and after.

Asked for his reaction, Trudeau said Legault is dealing with the reality that people will meet up over the holidays, regardless of the rules. “I think we need to recognize that there are many weeks still until Christmas and it’s right to give people hope that there might be ways we can gather at Christmas,” he said, but added that what is allowed over the holidays “depends a lot on what we do right now.”

Trudeau and Tam shared the new Covid-19 projections with federal opposition leaders on Thursday. In response, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole issued a statement saying Canada is “worse off than we were at the start of the pandemic.” He called on Trudeau to make rapid testing widely available and to provide better information about the sources of community spread.