Signs COVID-19 is slowing, provinces talk of easing restrictions
Both Quebec and Ontario called on the federal government to send in troops to bolster shortage of staff in nursing homes.
TORONTO — The Canadian military needs to help in understaffed nursing homes ravaged by COVID-19, the country’s two largest provinces said, as signs of a slowing pandemic prompted talk of easing the economically crippling measures put in place to curb the spread.
Both Quebec and Ontario called on the federal government to send in the troops, with Premier Francois Legault asking for 1,000 military personnel. Premier Doug Ford similarly asked for military help in five priority homes in his province.
Coronavirus disease in nursing homes has accounted for a significant proportion of Canada’s 1,974 deaths, with facilities in the two largest provinces hit especially hard.
Despite the lethal spread of the novel coronavirus in long-term care facilities, some bright spots did emerge.
Ontario, for example, reported 510 new cases or 4.3% more over the previous day – the slowest growth in weeks. Also encouraging was that, for the first time, more than half of infections have been resolved and 20 long-term care homes with outbreaks were now virus-free.
Several other provinces reported no new cases amid talk of how and when to get the country moving again.
Ford has mused Ontario could start easing restrictions ahead of next month’s long weekend. Legault, whose province reported 93 more deaths, said he would present a plan next week to reopen schools gradually, starting in stable areas.
Premier Dennis King of PEI, which has had just 26 cases and no deaths, said lifting anti-COVID measures could start as early as May 1.
In Saskatchewan, Premier Scott Moe said some businesses could reopen next month under a five-phase plan his government has developed.
“We know there are risks on both sides,” he said in a televised address.
“If we move too quickly, we risk increasing the spread of COVID-19. If we move too slowly, we risk permanent damage to the livelihoods of thousands of Saskatchewan people.”
Moe said more details on what businesses and services will be allowed to reopen will be announced April 23.
Manitoba said it would release its reopening plan next week.
How exactly Canada starts on the road to normalization depends largely on provincial decisions, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. However, the closure of the Canada-US. border will stay in place until May 21 at the earliest, he said.
For her part, chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam agreed Canada was slowing the epidemic but warned against letting down the country’s collective guard. The focus, Tam said, had to be on stopping outbreaks in seniors homes and other places where vulnerable people live in close quarters.
The economic impact of the epidemic was seen on the inflation front, where Statistics Canada reported the consumer price index for March was up a scant 0.9% compared with a year ago. That was the smallest increase since May 2015 and compares with the 2.2% recorded in February.
— With files from Canadian Press reporters across the country.