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Canada ‘desperately’ needs people to dig in, stay home in coronavirus fight: Qualtrough

Click to play video '‘We’re not messing around here,’ warns employment minister as COVID-19 cases surge' ‘We’re not messing around here,’ warns employment minister as COVID-19 cases surge
WATCH: Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough says the second wave of COVID-19 means that millions more Canadians could find themselves out of work. In an interview with West Block host Mercedes Stephenson, Qualtrough says Canada can avoid more lockdowns, but only if Canadians “dig in” and “work together” to plank the curve.

As coronavirus cases continue to spike rapidly across the country, the federal government is “desperately” urging people to dig in and stay home.

In an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said a broader economic shutdown like what happened earlier in the year is not inevitable, but that Canadians must act now to slow the spread of the virus in families and communities.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Canada now at 160,535 total confirmed cases of COVID-19, 9,319 deaths' Coronavirus: Canada now at 160,535 total confirmed cases of COVID-19, 9,319 deaths
Coronavirus: Canada now at 160,535 total confirmed cases of COVID-19, 9,319 deaths

“We are right back at the place where we desperately need Canadians to dig in,” she said.

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“As people start going indoors, as the flu season also descends upon us, we have to make sure we’re doing everything we possibly can to continue to address it through the things we all do. Whether it’s hand washing, social distancing, wearing a mask — just staying put as much as we can.

“The more we can do those things, the less economic consequences there will be.”

Read more: Ottawa’s health system is in ‘crisis,’ Dr. Etches says amid 142 new coronavirus cases

Cases are spiking across the country, including in the two most populous provinces where rapidly-increasing infections last week prompted provincial health officials to impose some restrictions on gatherings, though falling short of mounting calls for a broad order to close indoor bars and dining.

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Ontario reported 732 cases on Friday, a record single-day high, while Quebec topped 1,000 new cases that same day, also a record high.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the country is in the second wave and officials like Ottawa’s chief public health officer Dr. Vera Etches are warning the city is reaching a “crisis” point.

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And with many hospitals and testing centres at or nearing capacity, the risk that Canadian health-care systems could become overwhelmed this fall is growing even as provincial officials shy away from the kind of large-scale lockdowns implemented in the spring.

Read more: Ontario announces provincewide mask policy, new restrictions for ‘hotspot areas’

Qualtrough said the focus is on trying to get people to stop the spread locally first and that provinces will try a range of targeted tactics to try to contain the spread, but want to see results.

“We’re really trying as governments to minimize the economic impact going forward but it really depends on people remaining vigilant. We’re not messing around here.”

The rising case counts come as global deaths have now hit more than one million.

In Canada, confirmed cases now exceed 162,195 while deaths stand at 9,404.

Read more: Quebec warns more coronavirus restrictions possible as new cases top 1,000

Political leaders also have not been spared: Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and his wife, Rebecca, both contracted the virus last month, as did Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet.

All three are now recovered, but U.S. President Donald Trump is the latest political leader to fall ill.

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Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen said the infections drive home the seriousness of the virus.

I think it just really makes it real for everyone that this virus is serious. It’s hitting people regardless of who you are, where you live, what your job is,” she said.

“So we all have to be very serious about how we deal with it and how we protect ourselves and those that we love.”

Qualtrough offered similar thoughts.

“Wear your mask, wash your hands, social distance,” she said. “This thing is serious.”

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Toronto’s top doctor asks province to take further action to stop spread of virus' Coronavirus: Toronto’s top doctor asks province to take further action to stop spread of virus
Coronavirus: Toronto’s top doctor asks province to take further action to stop spread of virus