As Canada’s COVID death toll passes 2,000, Trudeau warns against opening economy too soon

Canada’s COVID-19 death toll passed the 2,000 mark on Thursday as premiers in two provinces roll out plans to get their economies going.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe on Thursday announced a five-phase plan to reopen parts of the province’s economy: Starting May 4, dentist offices, optometry clinics and physical therapy providers will be allowed to open, while some retail stores might be allowed to open May 19. P.E.I. has said some outdoor activities and elective surgeries could restart in early May.

But in his daily address to the nation Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there’s a lot of work to do before the economy ramps up.

“Once we’ve developed a vaccine, whether it be in Canada or elsewhere around the world we’re going to need to produce it and we will see the same kinds of pressures that we’re seeing obtaining PPE (personal, protective equipment) around the world to obtain vaccines which is why part of the investments we’re making today is to establish the capacity of developing vaccines and producing vaccines, mass producing vaccines here in Canada.”

Those investments includes $1.1 billion for a national medical and research strategy, with $662 million earmarked for clinical trials to test vaccines and treatments as they are developed.

A vaccine is the long-term solution, the PM said, but until then, Canadians need to slow the spread so the economy can get going again.

Another $350 million would be used to expand national testing and modelling in the interim.

Dr. Theresa Tam, the head of the Public Health Agency of Canada said she’s encouraged.

“Today’s announcements give us hope for our future. In a world that is connected and united towards a goal,” she said. “With brain power that is funded, supported and trusted, we can reach a whole new level of capacity to respond to infectious disease threats, now and into the future.

“Go science!”

On Thursday, Ontario announced that 54 more people had died from the disease, a slightly bigger increase than on Wednesday. Quebec reported 109 new deaths. At least half the country’s fatalities have been in nursing homes.

Nova Scotia reported three more deaths at the Halifax-area Northwood long-term care home and another at a care home in Sydney, N.S. Public health experts say mass testing is critical to detect those who have the virus but no symptoms.

The concern is that asymptomatic carriers can unwittingly infect others and trigger a second surge in cases.

Tam has said 60,000 daily tests are needed, triple the current number.

Tam also said it was important to detect people with immunity to the COVID virus. Having immunity would likely mean no longer being subject to the anti-pandemic measures that have devastated the economy and prompted unprecedented federal bailouts.

More demands on the federal treasury came from the country’s municipalities. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities asked Ottawa to give local governments as much as $15 billion over the next six months to stave off financial ruin.

As examples, the organization said transit ridership was down because people were being told to stay home. Municipal councils have also been considering, or have approved, delays in collecting property taxes to give residents a financial break.

With files from the Canadian Press

Reporter / Ottawa

Originally from the Cree Nation of Chisasibi on the eastern coast of James Bay, Quebec, Jamie has lived in Ottawa since 2015. Trained in journalism at Carleton University, he has worked as a freelance print journalist and as a writer/researcher for the Cree unit of CBC North out of Montreal. Jamie was hired as the reporter/correspondent for the Ottawa bureau in October 2019.