Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has urged premiers and mayors across the country to avoid loosening COVID-19 restrictions for the sake of the economy and suggested that localized shutdowns are needed in areas seeing a surge in cases.
“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,” Mr. Trudeau said at a news conference in Ottawa Tuesday.
“We at the federal government are making it easier for provinces to do the right thing and shut down and put in restrictions so that we can control the spread of COVID-19.”
He made the comments as Ontario had yet another record day of new COVID-19 cases and the Manitoba government announced the closure of non-essential stores and a ban on social gatherings. At the news conference with Mr. Trudeau, Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said the seven-day average for new cases in Canada has climbed to more than 3,800 a day, up by more than 1,000 since the end of October.
“We’re seeing record spikes across the country, so I urge the premiers and the mayors to please do the right thing: Act now to protect public health. If you think something is missing in the support we’re offering your citizens, tell us. We will work with you," Mr. Trudeau said.
The federal government does not have control of the restrictions provinces and territories impose or the criteria they follow when deciding to shut down businesses. And Mr. Trudeau has been careful to avoid commenting on how the premiers and mayors are doing. When asked about Manitoba’s response to a surge in cases last week, he said his “job is not to judge other jurisdictions and how they do things.”
Ottawa would have more power over local rules if it invoked the federal Emergencies Act, but Mr. Trudeau said Tuesday that he didn’t believe it necessary "right now.”
Last week, Ontario Premier Doug Ford unveiled new criteria for pandemic restrictions that relaxed the rules in some regions considered COVID-19 hotspots. In response, Peel Region clamped down with its own rules, and officials in Toronto are considering following that approach.
Mr. Trudeau said the federal government’s relief programs are designed to help those affected by regional shutdowns and were developed to make it easier for regional governments to decide to close or limit certain industries.
The Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy program was introduced in early October but has not yet passed through the Senate, so while it is retroactive to last month, businesses can’t yet apply for it.
“We certainly encourage the provinces to act quickly to control the spread of this virus with measures that, increasingly, scientists and experts around the world are agreed are effective: targeted shutdowns, limits where necessary," Mr. Trudeau said.
“The best thing to do to protect not just the health of Canadians but the health of our economy into the medium and long term is to do what is necessary to keep people safe from COVID right now," he added.
He urged Canadians to follow physical-distancing rules, wear masks when needed and download the COVID Alert exposure notification app.
With a report from The Canadian Press.
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