OTTAWA -- Even when Canada can begin returning to normal, it still won’t be normal, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday before arriving on Parliament Hill for his first known in-person appearance at a cabinet meeting after spending the last month largely in COVID-19 self-isolation.

While the government has yet to offer its pandemic predictions for case spread, Trudeau said that Canadians being instructed to follow physical distancing and work from home orders will continue for “many more weeks.”

Asked about what thinking has gone into how Canada will eventually ease out of the current public health emergency, Trudeau said that “the current measures will be in place for many more weeks,” so officials have time to “get that right.”

Trudeau said Canada will take lessons learned from other countries that are coming out the other side of their COVID-19 pandemic peaks as to what’s worked, but getting the economy rolling without risking another surge in cases will be key.

“It’s going to be very, very important to do it in a measured, graduated way that allows for economic activity to begin, while preventing severe spikes in COVID transmission,” Trudeau said. 

The prime minister said that staying home now and following public health advice is needed to make sure that the societal shut down doesn’t go on for “months and months.” 

“There is no question that once we start to get to the other side of this spike and are able to talk about easing off social distancing there will be a need for continual surveillance, continual attentiveness on testing, on contact tracing, on protecting our most vulnerable,” Trudeau said. 

“That means even as things are able to start getting back to normal, they won’t be back to normal.”

He said that the federal government and public health officials are still trying to figure out where exactly the country is on the curve and when the peak in cases will occur given the rates are different across Canada.

What is clear, Trudeau said, is that ongoing compliance with public health measures will go a long way towards flattening that peak when it comes.

Though, that is just the first phase of Canada’s fight against the pandemic, he said.

“We will then be in a mode until there is a vaccine, which could take many, many months if not more than a year to get to, [where] we will be calibrating very carefully our behaviours as a country, as a society, as an economy, to managing the existence and persistence of COVID-19."  


Trudeau arrived on Parliament Hill and entered West Block with an armload of paperwork on Wednesday afternoon. While some ministers are in town and joining the meeting with their boss in-person, others will be calling in from across the country.

His meeting with cabinet today will be to “discuss next steps,” Trudeau said. 

"I will continue to work from home day in and day out as we’re asking most Canadians to do, there will be moments for strategic meetings or particular issues where I will go in to the office." 

This marks his first known public outing since entering self-isolation in mid-March when his wife Sophie tested positive for COVID-19. 

“Over the past few weeks, we’ve all had to make changes because of this pandemic,” Trudeau said, adding that having to stay indoors and not see loved ones, and adjusting to new work situations has meant big adjustments for everyone.

“What makes this situation so difficult is how quickly it all happened. Through no fault of your own, your whole world has been turned upside down in a matter of weeks and that can create even more uncertainty and even more anxiety,” Trudeau said.


There have been some positive indications that the spread is slowing in some parts of Canada, but with projections from Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta now indicating that there could be hundreds of thousands of cases by summer’s end, any return to normalcy could still be months away.

Trudeau has faced questions about why the federal government has yet to release comprehensive national scenarios on the scale of the virus’ spread.

On Wednesday, the prime minister continued to say that information is coming. 

“We’ve seen over the past few days a number of provinces putting forward more data, more modelling on their issues… In order to have a national picture in terms of modelling or forecasts, we need to draw on what the provinces are doing,” Trudeau said. “As we collate those and look at those and integrate those into a national model, we will have more to say in the coming days.”

As reported on Tuesday, by mid-February federal scenario planning had begun and it was being used to recommend further measures and to look at the social and economic implications “should the situation continue to evolve.” 

This planning included the Public Health Agency of Canada conducting “advanced thinking and scenario analysis including a pandemic scenario” according to a briefing note labelled “confidential advice” for Health Minister Patty Hajdu to use during a call she held with her provincial counterparts on Feb. 10. It went on to say that Canadian governments “need to be prepared to respond based on the latest scientific evidence.”

These public health scenarios were to be used to “inform response planning, triggers for further measures and potential recommended actions across jurisdictions as the situation evolves,” according to another briefing note for a call nine days later. 


At the daily update on federal measures, Hajdu faced questions over whether further enforcement measures to keep people at home and away from each other are needed. She said there has to be a balance between current public health needs and the long-term impacts on people’s lives.

“We're trying as best as we can to beat a global pandemic, a virus which there is no cure and there is no vaccine for, using I would say relatively primitive tools, tools that have been used over centuries to prevent the spread of disease,” Hajdu said.

“So as we do that, and as we apply additional measures we have to be extremely thoughtful about how we do that to get to the intended public health goal, which is to reduce the spread and to actually save lives, but also understand the long lasting implications in other people's lives and have some kindness and patience with people as they learn to live in a new way.”

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said governments are looking into ways to monitor people who are not physically distancing. She said that even with the mandatory quarantines imposed on recent Canadian travellers, officers are having to track down people who can’t be reached.

“We do every day find people who haven’t answered our phone calls and have to be chased down,” Tam said.

According to new data released by Statistics Canada, the majority of Canadians surveyed said they are following physical distancing guidelines. 

More than half of Canadians reported that they were very, or extremely concerned about the health of someone in their household and 84 per cent were very concerned that COVID-19 would overload the health-care system.

As of late Wednesday afternoon, a total of 19,195 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Canada, and 427 people have died.