By Ryan Tumilty, National Post, Nov 21, 2020
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau returned to Rideau Cottage Friday to address the nation, warning that COVID-19 was running out of control across the country and pleading with Canadians to hunker down as they did in the spring.
Trudeau said people would have to limit their contacts, and holiday gatherings would have to scaled back at the very least.
“A normal Christmas is, quite frankly, out of the question. What it looks like depends on what we do now,” Trudeau said Friday morning.
Trudeau said the end of the pandemic was hopefully a few months away, with vaccines showing promise, but said that in the meantime Canadians have to be cautious.
“We are going to need to have to do this for another few weeks, for another few months and then we can begin to see the other side of this,” he said.
Trudeau said he himself would return to working from home, and encouraged others to do so. He said he would address Canadians from Rideau Cottage next week as well.
The government released new modelling on Friday showing that Canada’s current trajectory would see the country reaching 20,000 cases per day by late December, four times the already-high levels the country is seeing now.
“We’re not on a good trajectory across the board or across Canada,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer. “There is urgency to quickly bring infection rates down across the country.”
If people increase their contacts, a risk with the holiday season coming up, Tam warned that the cases would reach 60,000 cases a day by the end of December.
She said the virus was spreading rapidly in every province outside of the Atlantic bubble, but even Nova Scotia had seen an increase.
Tam pleaded with Canadians to reduce their contacts, wear a mask when they’re outside, wash their hands often and stay home when they’re sick. She said there was a light at the end of the tunnel, but we still have a way to go.
“There has been some very good news about vaccine development. Keep this beacon of hope in mind,” she said.
She added that hospitals are already under pressure and would struggle with any increase in cases.
“The strain on health systems has resulted in hospitals having to postpone important medical procedures, critical care beds for COVID-19 patients have reached maximum capacity in some areas.”
Trudeau was emotional as he pleaded with people to take the pressure off health care workers who he described as exhausted heroes.
“They have been going above and beyond anything they might have thought they were signing up for,” he said. “We need to give them a break. We need to stop this spike in cases.”
By every measure, the modelling indicates the pandemic is headed in the wrong direction. As of Thursday, there had been 311,109 cases in Canada and 11,186 deaths.
The country is seeing just under 4,800 new cases a day now; that’s an increase of 15 per cent in the last week. There are also an average of 65 new deaths from the virus every 24 hours. The percentage of COVID tests coming back positive is also on the rise.
The government’s modelling predicts that by Nov. 30, just ten days from now, the country will have seen somewhere between 366,500 and 378,600 cases, and it predicts the death toll to grow to between 11,870 and 12,120.
In the government’s last projections at the end of October, the worst case scenario ultimately came to pass.
If the 20,000 projection per day total comes to pass, Canada could nearly triple its total number of cases in just the month of December.
Quebec is reporting 1,259 new COVID-19 infections, 32 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus and a drop in hospitalizations.
Health officials said today hospitalizations declined by 27, to 624, and 96 people were in intensive care, a drop of five.
B.C. announced 538 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the province’s total to 24,960
Ontario reported 1,418 new cases of COVID-19 Friday, along with eight new deaths related to the virus. Premier Doug Ford announced that Toronto and the Peel Region would be moving into a lockdown, closing cinemas, gyms, museums and sports facilities and restricting restaurants to all but delivery and takeout.Retail stores are also set to be limited to curbside pickup and delivery only.
Ford said he understood people’s frustrations, but there was simply no choice at this point.
“I know these past few months have been extremely difficult. COCID fatigue is setting in on all of us,” he said. “We will endure. We will persevere and we will get through this.”
Ford said the lockdown would ensure hospitals weren’t overrun, long-term care homes were protected and schools could stay open.
“To protect what matters most we have to get the community spread under control,” he said.
Trudeau highlighted the government’s wage subsidy and rent subsidy programs, which were overhauled with a bill that finally passed through Parliament on Thursday.The bill includes additional support for businesses put into lockdown, and Trudeau said health leaders should consider that if they’re concerned about the economic impact of lockdowns.
“Many provinces are bringing in restrictions, bringing in lockdowns, and wherever they are across the country, as a federal government, we will be there to give you that extra support,” he said.