COVID-19: Canada is 'not on a good trajectory,' Tam says

Trudeau calls for Canadians to reduce contacts

File photo of Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam PHOTO BY PATRICK DOYLE/REUTERS

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau implored Canadians to reduce their social contacts Friday with COVID-19 cases spiking and projections signalling a surge that could overwhelm hospitals and cost many more lives.

“Canada could have up to 20,000 new cases daily by the end of December if we don’t limit or reduce our contacts now,” Trudeau said.

“And if we loosen and increase our contacts we could see tens of thousands more.

“I know this isn’t what people wanted to hear but we have to be realistic about the situation. We’re seeing huge spikes in places like Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Nunavut, with a record number of hospitalizations across the country.”

The prime minister hailed health-care workers who’ve been “heroes” for almost 10 months and argued that stemming the spread of COVID-19 was the best way to protect the economy.

He said mayors and premiers were having to make “hard choices” about restrictions but the federal government would be there to help businesses. He pointed to new commercial rent subsidies that will go directly to tenants, including extra help for businesses under lockdowns, and an extension of the federal wage subsidy.

The prime minister urged people in areas where cases are rising to stay at home and avoid travel but said he was not contemplating using the “hammer” of the federal Emergencies Act to shut down interprovincial borders.

Trudeau confirmed that the current measures on the U.S. border would be extended for another 30 days with non-essential travel between the two countries restricted until at least Dec. 21.

Ontario, meanwhile, reported 1,418 cases of COVID-19 Friday — 77 of them in Ottawa — as Canada’s chief public health officer unveiled alarming new projections for the spread of the virus.

There were 400 new cases in Peel, 393 in Toronto and 168 in York Region, Public Health Ontario reported.

A total of 518 Ontarians were hospitalized with the virus with 142 of them in intensive care.

The tally reported in Ottawa was the largest this week, bringing the capital’s cumulative case count to 8,102 since the pandemic began. There were 37 cases reported Thursday.

Across Ontario, there were eight deaths, 1,415 more resolved cases and nearly 48,200 tests completed the previous day.

The government released new modelling on Friday showing Canada’s current trajectory would see the country seeing 20,000 cases per day by late December, four times the already high levels the country is seeing now.

“We’re not on a good trajectory across the board or across Canada,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer. “There is urgency to quickly bring infection rates down across the country.”

If people increase their contacts, a risk with the holiday season coming up, Tam warned that the cases would reach 60,000 cases a day by the end of December.

She said the virus was spreading rapidly in every province outside of the Atlantic bubble, but even Nova Scotia had seen an increase.

Tam pleaded with Canadians to reduce their contacts, wear a mask when they’re outside, wash their hands often and stay home when they’re sick. She said there was a light at the end of the tunnel, but we still had a way to go.

“There has been some very good news about vaccine development. Keep this beacon of hope in mind.”

-with files from The Canadian Press

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