Canada Begins Phased Release of Pandemic Lockout

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Ottawa (AFP) – Canada began a gradual relaxation of pandemic restrictions on Monday as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged vigilance and steps to prevent a resurgence of COVID-19.

The Atlantic coast province of New Brunswick, after seeing no new cases in just over a week, was the first to relax the rules on social distancing, starting with the opening of parks and beaches.

Saskatchewan is expected to allow businesses to reopen next week.

And Ontario and Quebec, which have had the most cases of coronavirus, mostly in nursing homes, have released tentative schedules for reopening their economies.

“Different provinces and territories may evolve at a different pace,” said Trudeau in a daily briefing.

He stressed the need for a gradual and coordinated approach “to make sure we do it very carefully, based absolutely on the best scientific advice.”

“If we are wrong, everything we have done, everything we have sacrificed in the past few weeks could have been in vain,” he warned.

Federal guidelines for reopening businesses include stepping up coronavirus testing and ensuring sufficient health care capacity “to handle a possible increase” in cases.

The provinces are, however, responsible for setting their own conditions for lifting the restrictions.

Trudeau said he had “enormous confidence” in each province’s plan.

– ‘Life must continue’ –

“Life has to go on,” said Quebec Premier François Legault at a press conference.

He announced that elementary schools and daycares outside of Montreal, hard hit, would be the first to reopen in the province on May 11 “if and only if” the situation does not get worse.

Legault insisted on “prudence” in the “progressive” reopening of companies.

In the meantime, the Ontario government has released a framework to get the province back on its feet, but has given no specific timeline.

“This is a roadmap, not a timetable,” said Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who over the weekend rebuked protesters demanding an early end to the campaign. locking like “a bunch of yahoos”.

“I fully understand that people are anxious to get back to work,” he said on Monday. “Hang on, we’ll get there.”

“What we don’t want to do is be premature and open the economy too soon, and then (the virus) comes back. “

Ontario has started to see a decrease in the number of new cases in the past three days.

Its infection rate must continue to drop over the next two to four weeks before some companies are allowed to reopen in an initial phase of loosening of the rules.

People will also be allowed to meet in small groups in parks or for funerals, for example.

Service industries, as well as additional retail offices and workplaces, would follow as conditions improve.

– Wait for the vaccine –

Canadians, said Trudeau, must “stay vigilant every step of the way” until there is an effective treatment or vaccine.

The country should prepare for a resurgence of cases in the fall and not expect a “normal” return anytime soon, he said.

“Historians remember the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic that spring was pretty bad,” said Trudeau. “But the fall was much worse. “

The coming months, said the Prime Minister, will see “a careful reopening in certain sectors of the economy and certain things being allowed as people try to return to something a little more as usual”.

“Normal is something that is far from all of us,” he added. “And if we want life to go back to what it was before, it won’t. “

As of Monday, there were 48,229 cases of coronavirus in Canada, including 2,781 deaths.

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