A patient is brought into the emergency unit at Jean Talon Hospital, Monday April 20, 2020 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Canadians can’t relax yet despite progress in curbing COVID-19, officials say

Canada’s top doctor said the overall situation is improving

Canada’s public health measures have helped bring the national COVID-19 outbreak further under control, medical officials said Monday even as they cautioned a return to pre-pandemic life may not be in the offing for some time.

A handful of provinces reported stable numbers of new positive cases, while Ontario — one of the provinces hardest-hit by the virus — said community spread has likely peaked.

Canada’s top doctor said the overall situation is improving.

Dr. Theresa Tam said much of the credit for the tentative turnaround lies with Canadians who have followed public health guidance and embraced physical distancing, but added those new habits must stay in place for some time.

“Now is absolutely not the time to change our current stance,” she said. ”We need to keep going on our public health measures. But I think it’s a testament to the work of all Canadians that we have managed to move to this more positive direction.”

Tam’s assessment comes as Ontario, currently grappling with the second-highest case count in the country, released numbers showing progress in the province’s fight against the novel coronavirus.

New government modelling shows the peak of the outbreak, previously expected in May, is unfolding right now in communities outside of congregate care settings. The figures showed the province is poised to witness the best-case scenario in terms of toll on the health-care system and the number of fatalities.

READ MORE: Ban on assault-style guns top of mind for Trudeau, as Canada mourns Nova Scotia victims

But the curve needs to flatten further before the province can end its declaration of emergency and begin reviving the economy, according to Barbara Yaffe, the province’s associate chief medical officer of health.

“When we do start to lift some of the measures, it will not be a light switch on-off,” she said. “It will be very gradual, and we will have to measure the impact of each change and make sure we’re not seeing more infection as we lift it. Because once we lift it, it will be very hard to go back.”

The situation in the province’s long-term care facilities, group homes and jails remained bleak, with at least 127 outbreaks reported in such facilities across the province.

The fresh projections came hours after Ontario reported 606 new COVID-19 cases in the province, along with 31 new deaths since Sunday morning.

While the figure represents the highest single-day increase in positive diagnoses, the case growth rate has stayed relatively low and stable for the past week.

Number also continued to climb in Quebec, which has by far the highest COVID-19 caseload in Canada.

As the government recorded a provincial death toll nearing the 1,000 mark and total cases in excess of 19,000, Premier Francois Legault announced measures to ramp up staffing levels in the long-term care homes at the centre of the outbreak.

He said Quebec would delay all non-urgent activities in hospitals for the next two weeks to address a 2,000-person staff shortage in long-term care settings.

Meanwhile in Ottawa, often the scene of new federal initiatives to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, partisan wrangling resurfaced as the House of Commons resumed its regular operations.

MPs returned after the four main parties failed to reach a unanimous agreement on how parliamentary business should be conducted.

The Liberals, NDP Bloc Quebecois and Greens voted in favour of having 32 MPs meet in the House in person each Wednesday starting this week, with up to two virtual sessions also added for members to ask questions of the government.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters it would be “irresponsible” to resume parliamentary sittings at a time when health experts are urging Canadians to work from home as much as possible to slow the spread of COVID-19.

But Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer condemned the deal on Monday morning, saying Parliament needed to convene more often in order to hold the Liberals accountable for the sweeping measures and vast economic stimulus packages they’re rolling out during the pandemic.

Those measures include the Emergency Response Benefit, which new federal numbers show has funnelled $19.8 billion in payments to Canadians who have lost income amid the widespread shutdowns caused by the pandemic.

At his daily news conference addressing the COVID-19 crisis, Trudeau mused on the way the pandemic would affect Nova Scotia residents mourning at least 19 victims killed in a Sunday rampage believed to be the most deadly mass shooting in Canadian history.

“We understand how incredibly painful it is for families who have lost loved ones in Nova Scotia this past day to imagine that they will not be able to see them off together as a community,” he said. “But at the same time, there are thousands and thousands of Canadians across the country who have lost loved ones to COVID-19…who haven’t been able to gather to mourn, to grieve, to attend funerals. This is something that we are dealing with right now.”

Nova Scotia reported 46 new cases on Monday, making it the epicentre of the outbreak in Atlantic Canada.

Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador both reported no new positive tests on Monday, while New Brunswick said it had not recorded any new cases in six of the past 10 days.

Manitoba reported only one positive case, but the government opted to extend the provincial state of emergency measured until May 17 and is still considering whether to ease restrictions capping public gatherings at 10 people.

More than 35,700 Canadians have tested positive for COVID-19, and over 1,600 people have died across the country.

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

New seniors’ housing complex proposed for Port Alberni

Developers targeting more active seniors, offering ‘age in place’ model

Upgrade on the books for contentious intersection in Port Alberni

Province promises survey, changes at Beaver Creek and River Roads in 2021

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 20 to 26

Rabbit Day, Hobbit Day and One-Hit Wonder Day are all coming up this week

Family Farm Day in the Alberni Valley goes virtual

Take part in a scavenger hunt for a chance to win a gift basket

B.C. or Ontario? Residential school survivors fight move of court battle

It’s now up to Ontario’s Court of Appeal to sort out the venue question

B.C. transportation minister will not seek re-election

Claire Trevena has held the position since 2017

Body discovered floating in water near Lasqueti Island

JRCC reports personnel aboard fishing vessel made the find

Young B.C. cancer survivor rides 105-km with Terry Fox’s brother

Jacob Bredenhof and Darrell Fox’s cycling trek raises almost $90,000 for cancer research

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

Rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Preparations underway for pandemic election in Saskatchewan and maybe B.C.

Administrators in B.C. and around the country are also looking to expand voting by mail during the pandemic

Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers by late July

WHO acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

Most Read