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