PM Trudeau questioned on COVID-19 projections, implores people to stay home
OTTAWA -- Facing questions about why the federal government has yet to release comprehensive national projections on the scale of the virus’ spread and how long it’ll be before Canadians can expect a return to some sense of normalcy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that information is coming “soon.”
Trudeau continues to implore Canadians to stay home if they want to come out of the pandemic sooner rather than later, saying there are still too many people going out unnecessarily, to the detriment of front-line workers. He also reemphasized the need for cross-Canada collaboration in advance of a Thursday evening call with the premiers.
In recent weeks, Trudeau has fielded numerous questions about the time it’ll take before Canada emerges from the pandemic, and has yet to offer specifics on what his government’s death toll projections are, despite such fatalities projections being shared publicly in other countries.
The prime minister said he will talk to the premiers about making sure all data coming from each region is aligned, to inform more accurate federal models.
The inconsistency in the data from across Canada is part of the delay in offering a nationwide picture, he said, adding that he understands that Canadians want further analysis on the daily case counts, to know when they could head back into their office, or when their kids can see their friends again in-person.
“We’re constantly getting and validating more data, that means we can share more information with you,” Trudeau said.
Thursday marks the tail end of the third week many Canadians have stayed at home, watching the virus spread and wondering how long the public health measures to curtail the pandemic will be in place.
“You want to plan, you want to prepare for the worst, you want to know what to be hopeful about, I know,” Trudeau said, addressing Canadians from Rideau Cottage, saying that there will be more light shed on how much worse the pandemic spread could get in Canada, but the outcomes will be impacted by people’s behaviours today.
“We must do everything we can today and tomorrow to set us on the right path for next week and next month,” Trudeau said. “It takes time for the effects of our actions to be felt so if we don’t want our hospitals to be overwhelmed in the coming weeks, we need to make the right choices and we need to make them now.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced later Thursday that the provinces’ top doctors will be releasing modelling data on Friday that shows the potential scenarios that could play out, but also where the country was, and is currently, when it comes to the virus’ spread.
"You deserve to know what I know when you’re making decisions for yourself, your family and your community," Ford said during a news conference at Queen's Park on Thursday.
He said he doesn’t agree with holding back this information, and hopes it’ll prompt people to think twice about their own behavior.
“It’s going to be stark,” he said. “A real wake-up call.”
Not long after, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe followed suit, saying his province’s heath officials would offer their modelling early next week.
“The more information that we’re able to provide to the people of Saskatchewan, the better informed that we will all be as our province works to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Moe said.
Further explaining the federal modelling underway, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said each scenario depends on several factors. To estimate the number of deaths, for example, the government would need to have a clear handle on the rate of infections and efficacy of public health measures, as well as the rate of hospitalization.
“That’s the work that we’re doing right now to give Canadians a better sense in the days to come should we be able to see a mild outcome, a moderate outcome, a more severe outcome and what kinds of decisions, what kinds of measures and what kinds of capacities would affect those outcomes,” she said.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said that even with the modelling, it won’t be an accurate picture of what Canada could look like months down the road.
“What you’re looking at is whether the numbers, those numbers we get reported every day, are pointing us towards a certain direction, whether that curve is bending,” she said.
The prime minister also underscored the importance of those who have recently returned to Canada staying in self-isolation for 14 days, as they are mandated to do under the Quarantine Act.
“We’ve received many, many Canadians who have returned home over the past couple of weeks, there is still a few more to come,” Trudeau said, calling them a “real risk” to their neighbours, loved ones, and the entire country.
It’s possible the possibility of enacting the federal Emergencies Act will be discussed on the call with premiers, as a measure to ensure that nationwide approach, though the desire to take that sweeping approach has yet to be expressed publicly by most provincial leaders.
Asked again whether now is the time to invoke the Act, which would allow a national stay at home order, Trudeau said the government is not quite at the point of needing to go there, but once all provinces exhaust their powers, it’s a bridge that could be crossed.
“We’re not quite that at that point,” Trudeau said, noting that certain provinces continue to bring in “more and more stiff measures.”
Trudeau had also indicated early in the week that the military was readying itself to join the federal fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. He said that, while the federal government had not yet received a formal request from a province or territory for the military’s intervention, they are ready to respond should they be asked to deploy.
There is another parliamentary recall on the horizon, as front-line workers await the promise of mass orders of personal protective equipment and medical supplies, and laid off Canadians contemplate how to make ends meet while waiting on emergency financial assistance.
Trudeau said that 10 million masks have already been delivered and are now being distributed across the country, with another shipment of more than a million masks being examined in a Hamilton, Ont. warehouse. He also highlighted a new shipment of face masks from Canadian hockey outfitter Bauer, calling it “a quintessentially Canadian” example of the industry re-tooling underway.
Clearing his throat a few times during his address, the prime minister said there is “absolutely nothing to worry about” when it comes to his health, though he remains in self-isolation at his residence. Trudeau said that he continues to show no COVID-19 symptoms.
Facing questions about the global accountability aspect of the virus, namely in the way China has handled the outbreak and their level of openness about the reality in that country, Trudeau said there will be time to dissect what did and didn’t work.
“Obviously there will be many, many questions as this is all worked through over the coming months and indeed years on how this was handled, what lessons are taken, who did well, who didn’t do as well, and who was perhaps not as forthcoming with the global community as they should have been,” Trudeau said.
Further, Hajdu said that the World Health Organization is co-ordinating international data on the virus, and that “as long as coronavirus exists in one country it exists in all of our countries.”
As of midday Thursday, the number of confirmed cases rose to 11,068 in Canada, with 130 people dead and another 1,688 people recovered from the virus.