Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is pleading with Canadians to follow public health guidelines on COVID-19, warning that stiff enforcement measures could be imposed if people don’t stop engaging in behaviour that puts lives at risk.
As images emerged over the weekend of people gathering in groups at beaches and parks, and for parties, Trudeau said individuals taking part in such “extremely concerning” activities are putting not only themselves at risk but also health care workers, the elderly and other vulnerable people.
“We’ve all seen the pictures online of people who seem to think they’re invincible. Well, you’re not,” he said.
“Enough is enough. Go home and stay home. This is what we all need to be doing, and we’re going to make sure this happens, whether by educating people more on the risks, or by enforcing the rules, if that’s needed. Nothing that could help is off the table.”
Trudeau said the government has not ruled out any enforcement options. He’s expected to speak with the premiers later today to discuss steps going forward.
Trudeau urged Canadians to follow the recommendations of public health officials, who are asking Canadians to practise frequent handwashing and social distancing, stay home whenever possible, avoid non-essential travel and self-isolate in cases where there has been a risk of exposure to the virus.
“We have to trust them and we have to listen,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau’s remarks come as the federal government launches a $30-million advertising campaign to raise awareness about measures to stop the spread of infection.
The ads, featuring Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, will run for the rest of March and at least through April on all Canadian television networks and radio stations across the country, as well as in national, regional and local print outlets.
In the ads, Tam warns that the COVID-19 pandemic presents a “serious public health threat” and reminds Canadians of the importance of the measures to help delay the spread of COVID-19. By slowing the rate of new infections, officials hope to lessen the burden on the health care system.
There are now more than 1,550 confirmed cases, and at least 20 deaths, in Canada.
Speaking outside his residence at Rideau Cottage, Trudeau said there will be a $5-billion credit program to support farmers. He also announced $192 million in new funding for the development and production of vaccines to stop the spread of the virus.
Trudeau remains in self-isolation because of his wife Sophie’s positive test for COVID-19.
Some provinces recommending isolation for domestic travellers
Every province and territory has now declared either a state of emergency or a public health emergency, but to date the federal government has not invoked the Emergencies Act, which would give it special powers to enforce quarantines and limit movement.
Some provinces have adopted their own rules, which include mandatory self-isolation upon arrival from another province.
Trudeau spoke today with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and is also expected to talk to Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe.
As COVID-19 cases mount around the world, the committees responsible for Canada’s involvement in Olympic and Paralympic sport have decided they won’t be sending athletes to Tokyo if the 2020 Summer Olympics go ahead as planned.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Sunday the government is also considering the option of imposing financial or criminal penalties on Canadian travellers who don’t follow the government’s advice.
The Quarantine Act, which was updated in 2005 after the deadly SARS outbreak, gives the federal health minister the power to designate quarantine zones and fine or jail travellers who disobey quarantine requests.
If a designated quarantine officer believes that a traveller has refused to isolate themselves, they can ask a peace officer to arrest the traveller and bring them into quarantine.
The House of Commons will reconvene Tuesday to adopt emergency measures announced earlier this week by the federal government to help Canadians and businesses hit financially by the health crisis.
Trudeau announced a massive $82-billion aid package that includes $27 billion in direct supports and another $55 billion to help business liquidity through tax deferrals.