OTTAWA -- Canada's top medical official struck an optimistic tone about the COVID-19 pandemic on Saturday, saying that efforts to flatten the curve are working as provinces across the country reported more positive figures.

"By following public health recommendations, we have collectively brought down the rate of infection. We are flattening the curve," said Dr. Theresa Tam in a press release, as federal medical officials and the Prime Minister took a break from their daily press conferences.

"While we can continue to be cautiously optimistic, it is important that everyone remains aware of our duty to protect one another, especially those who are most vulnerable, as we navigate the next few weeks."

New Brunswick reported they had no more active cases of COVID-19 as of Saturday after two weeks without a new infection and in Ontario, Premier Doug Ford said the province could get through the pandemic faster than previously expected.

"We're seeing a gradual downward slope in the public domain, and the lower we get the more we can open up and get back to the new normal," said Ford.

"I don't know the exact time... but if we keep going the way we're going, we're going to get out of this a lot sooner than we thought we might've been able to get out a couple of months ago."

At the provincial legislature, demonstrators gathered for a second Saturday in a row for an anti-lockdown protest. Ford blasted the protesters for disrespecting the Canadian flag by flying it upside down during the demonstration.

"I understand, people are hurting out there and people want to get back out there," said Ford, but he said that flying the flag upside down disrespects members of the armed forces who are overseas, as well as those helping in long-term facilities in Ontario.

"What they're doing is putting their lives in jeopardy as far as I'm concerned with congregating side-by-side."

Ford said he respected their right to protest but wondered aloud whether it's fair that mothers with their children receive fines for being in parks while anti-lockdown protesters aren't fined.

Provinces across Canada are preparing to start relaxing lockdown rules in the coming week.

Businesses like gardening centres and auto dealerships will be allowed to open in Ontario on Monday, while residents in Newfoundland and Labrador will now be allowed to interact with one other household other than their own.

Quebec has announced plans to gradually reopen daycares, elementary schools, retail businesses, construction and manufacturing during the month of May.

The Ontario premier agreed with Quebec Premier Francois Legault by saying the fight against COVID-19 is now separated between the battle in long-term care homes and in the general public.

"There's two different worlds right now we're fighting this virus, one in long term care homes and one in the public domain," said Ford.

"In the public domain, everyone has done an incredible job... and that's the reason why we see the trend going down."

Ford's comments came as deaths continued to mount, with another 114 deaths in Quebec, 55 in Ontario and two in Nova Scotia.

Canada has more than 56,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus as of Saturday afternoon and more than 3,500 deaths.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to share information about fighting the pandemic while protecting the economy.

A readout of the call said the two leaders also spoke about the need to keep supply chains working throughout the global crisis, particularly in regards to medical supplies.

New Zealand has widely been seen as a success story in the effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 2, 2020.