Prime Minister Justin Trudeau publicly called on the country’s premiers and mayors today to “do the right thing” and impose restrictions to counter the recent rise in COVID-19 cases.
“We’re seeing record spikes this morning across the country. So I’m imploring the premiers and our mayors to please do the right thing — act now to protect public health,” Trudeau said during his regular morning briefing with public health officials.
“If you think something is missing in the support we’re offering for your citizens — tell us.”
Trudeau’s sobering statement comes as health officials are reporting what the prime minister called a “concerning spike” in caseloads across the country.
The province of Ontario, which recently eased its strict restrictions on businesses and public activity in some regions, this morning reported 1,388 new cases of COVID-19 — a new daily high — and 15 additional deaths. Health Minister Christine Elliott said that number includes 520 new cases in Toronto and 395 in Peel Region.
On Monday, a group of physicians in Alberta sent a letter to Premier Jason Kenney, his health minister and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, calling for swift moves to slow the spread of the virus.
“If the rate of COVID-19 spread continues, the consequences to the people of Alberta will be catastrophic,” the letter said.
“The province should consider a two-week, short, sharp lockdown or ‘circuit breaker’ to drop the effective reproductive number and allow contact tracing to catch up.”
‘Regions can do more’
Trudeau was asked by reporters to name the provinces with the most alarming caseload numbers, but he wouldn’t call out individual premiers.
“I think it’s extremely important to recognize that we are in a resurgence of COVID-19 and there are things that different regions can do to do more to fight COVID-19. And our job as a federal government is to be there to make difficult decisions slightly less difficult,” he said.
Trudeau said imposing targeted shutdowns and restrictions now could help prevent further problems down the line, and pointed out that the federal government has given billions of dollars in direct support to businesses affected by shutdown orders.
“With rising cases of COVID-19 here at home, there’s an added pressure on all orders of government to keep people safe and to protect jobs,” he said.
“But I would hope that no leader in our country is easing public health vigilance because they feel pressure not to shut down businesses or slow down our economy. I understand that worry, but let me tell you — that’s how we end up with businesses going out of business, and the economy damaged even more. Beating COVID is the only way to protect our economy.”
Trudeau said he has seen no justification for invoking the Emergencies Act — never-before-used legislation that empowers Ottawa to do just about anything it thinks is necessary to cope with a national crisis.
“I’ve had over 20 conversations with the first ministers directly, 20 first ministers meetings since the beginning of this pandemic. The issue of the Emergencies Act has come up a number of times and I’ve continued to reassure them that I don’t see it as being necessary right now,” he said.
“I know that all premiers are thinking of the health of their citizens as well as they think of the health of their economy, and that’s why I’m confident we’re going to continue to work together well and do the right things.”
Manitoba goes to ‘code red’
As Trudeau was speaking in Ottawa, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister took the step of announcing widespread shutdowns are coming, including a ban on social gatherings of any kind starting Thursday.
That move comes one day after his chief provincial public health officer announced 365 new cases, three deaths, a record provincial test positivity rate of 9.5 per cent and record numbers of COVID-19 patients in hospital and in intensive care.
B.C. Premier John Horgan is urging his residents to “get with the program” and cut back on social interactions, warning that a return to tighter restrictions is possible if the province’s COVID-19 case numbers don’t come down.
“This is going to be challenging,” Horgan said Monday.
“No one should be under any illusion based on what’s happening in British Columbia, in Canada, in North America — around the world — that we’re going to be out of this anytime soon.”