TORONTO (AP) — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday that Canada's lockdown will last “many more weeks” and warned Canadians if the economy is reopened too soon, all the sacrifices they are making now might be for nothing as the country could see another peak in coronavirus cases.
Trudeau urged Canadians to be patient and said for the reopening to occur, there has be rapid testing on a wide-scale basis as well as extensive contact tracing for those who test positive.
“We are still a number, a number of weeks away from that,” Trudeau said.
His remarks are his strongest yet against loosening economic restrictions too soon. Canada has more than 28,189 confirmed cases, including 1,006 deaths.
“We need to continue doing what we are doing now for many more weeks,” Trudeau said.
About 6 million of the country's 37 million people have applied for government help since mid-March when businesses were ordered closed and workers told to stay at home as a public health precaution.
Preliminary data from Statistics Canada on Wednesday showed economic activity collapsed in March, suggesting the drop could be a record 9%.
“We cannot be in a rush to get things going again because if we move too quickly to loosen all these controls everything we are doing now might have been nothing,” Trudeau said. "We’ll find ourselves in another peak just as bad as this one or worse.”
He said there has been too much talk in recent days of reopening.
“It’s not happening yet,” he said. “Once the experts are telling us we can reopen the economy a little bit, we will take very careful steps and do that.”
Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said that the number of cases in the country is now doubling every 10 days or so, compared to every three days in late March, which means the epidemic is slowing down.
But Tam said the situation in the United States might have a big impact on what the “new normal” looks like after Canada's first wave is under control. She said the first focus is getting Canada’s first wave under control. After that, imported cases will be a key risk, and that could mean ongoing travel restrictions to the U.S. and elsewhere.
The Canada U.S. border is closed to all nonessential travel.