Canada PM scolds provinces: Do more to fight COVID

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday urged premiers of the country’s 10 provinces to “do the right thing” and take stricter measures to fight a rapidly spreading second wave of the coronavirus.

“We are seeing record spikes this morning across the country, so I urge the premiers and the mayors to please do the right thing: act now to protect public health,” he told a news conference. Over the past week Canada has posted a daily average of more than 3,800 cases.

As Trudeau spoke, the central province of Manitoba announced a major shutdown beginning on Thursday. All social gatherings will be forbidden, restaurants closed except for takeout meals, and recreational facilities shut. Even supermarkets and pharmacies will operate only at 25% capacity.

Quebec – the province that has recorded the most cases – will keep restrictions on the hardest-hit areas in place for at least another two weeks, Premier Francois Legault said on Tuesday.

Doug Ford, premier of the most populous province of Ontario, said he was “very concerned” about the recent spike in cases and did not rule out further measures, though he announced no ones on Tuesday.

New cases are rising everywhere except for the Atlantic coast provinces, which have closed their borders even to most other Canadian visitors. But many provinces have resisted imposing another round of lockdowns fearing the potential economic damage.

Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said “it is clear we have yet to bend the curve on accelerated growth.” The virus will have more chance to spread as winter sets in, forcing people indoors, she said.

In Canada, health restrictions are the jurisdiction of provincial governments. Ottawa can step in during an emergency, but Trudeau said he saw no need for such action.

“I would hope that no leader in our country is easing public health vigilance because they feel pressure not to shut down businesses or slow down our economy,” said Trudeau, noting that Ottawa has provided billions of dollars to help businesses and people through the health crisis.

“I understand that worry, but let me tell you: that’s how we end up with businesses going out of business and the economy damaged even more.”

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