PM believes Canada has ‘more tools’ than in first wave of COVID-19 to avoid a second shutdown

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes his way to a press conference during the COVID pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Canada’s prime minister says he doesn’t believe a second nationwide lockdown is imminent in light of an increase in COVID-19 cases across Canada in recent weeks.

Justin Trudeau told Global News he believes, now that the general public knows more about the need for masks and social distancing amid the pandemic, that some “targeted lockdowns’ maybe all that is required to avoid countrywide closures.

“There’s no question that the second wave is really frustrating and painful,” Trudeau said. “But we have more tools now. We know how targeted lockdowns make a difference. We know what areas are most vulnerable to spread.”

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On Monday Canada recorded 1,742 news cases of the novel coronavirus, with Quebec accounting for 1,038 news cases and six new deaths while Ontario reported 704 with four more deaths.

Through the pandemic, Canada’s long-term care homes took a large hit, with over 800 outbreaks across the sector, according a report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

The agency says more than 80 per cent of COVID-19 deaths in Canada have been in long-term care (LTC) homes and retirement homes.

Since April the federal government has been sending support to the provinces, which regulate care homes, in the form of direct aid from Canada’s Armed Forces and the Red Cross – funded in part by a federal investment of up to $100 million announced in May.

However, after leaving the care homes in August, the Armed Forces reported problems with inexperienced staff struggling with feeding and residents crying for help for hours.

Seven of the biggest problem spots were in Ontario at homes in Pickering, Toronto, Brampton and Woodbridge.

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Trudeau says that since enlisting the military, both Ottawa and the provinces recognize that long-term care homes are the most vulnerable communities and that work needs to be done to protect those populations.

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“You shouldn’t have to want to move to a different province to make sure that you can care for your loved ones, or yourself be confident about going into a care facility,” Trudeau said.

“I think there is a need to be able to set a level playing field across the country where every Canadian can have confidence that when they plan going into a care facility or send a parent into a care facility, they know that they’re going to be well taken care of and safe.”

The PM admits there has been some friction between him and the premiers amid the pandemic, particularly with a demand in more health-care funding, but says the level of co-operation has been “unbelievably positive.”

“We’re all pulling in the same direction. We all want the same things. Of course, it’s going to be mild disagreements, but we all agree on the need to keep Canadians safe,” Trudeau said.

Border with United States to remain closed

On Monday, Canada maintained its border restrictions with the United States until at least the end of November amid spikes in coronavirus cases in both countries.

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The U.S. recorded another 170,000 cases of COVID-19 over the weekend with just under 2,000 deaths to bring the total number of deaths during the pandemic to 220,000.

The border measures, first imposed in March, were due to expire on Oct. 21. The partial closure restricts commercial traffic and other travel, like tourism or shopping, between the two countries. The ban does not cover trade or travel by air.

Trudeau says he understands that businesses would like to get American tourists back and have family members come back and forth freely, but says it can’t be done unless Canadians can be kept safe.

“Right now, the situation, the United States continues to be of concern. So we’re going to make sure we’re keeping Canadians safe as best as we can,” said Trudeau.

“Canadians can be deeply reassured to know that various orders of government are always going to work together to keep them safe, unlike some other places we see around the world.”

In August, Statistics Canada said the border closure played a part in Canada’s economy suffering its worst second quarter on record before a rebound in May and June.

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A loss in tourism and plant shutdowns accounted for a drop in exports by 18.4 per cent and a loss of 23 per cent in imports during the quarter.

Despite the hit, Trudeau believes the border closure was worth it to keep residents safe.

“We can’t talk about recovering our economy until we have this virus under control. And actually controlling the virus is the best way to help our economy grow.”

– With files from Rachael D’Amore

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