Photo: The Canadian press
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen on the screen of a broadcast camera as he speaks during his daily press conference on the COVID-19 pandemic outside his residence at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Friday April 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS / Justin Soie
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it is premature to speak of so-called “immunity passports” for Canadians because science does not know if those who have recovered from COVID-19 are safe from catching it a second time.
As the provinces begin to open their economies to COVID-19 closures, Trudeau said on Saturday that none of these recovery plans depended on people’s immunity to COVID-19 being captured twice.
Trudeau said he spoke to the premiers on Friday and discussed a basic framework the provinces will use when businesses, schools and other institutions reopen. According to him, the emphasis is on preventing the spread of the virus through physical removal and personal protective equipment.
“It is very clear that science is not clear on whether or not having COVID once prevents you from having it again,” he told reporters. “It is something that we need to get clearer answers and until we get those clearer answers, we have to err on the side of caution.” “
Trudeau responded to a recent brief from the World Health Organization stating that there is no evidence that people who have recovered from the virus have antibodies that protect them from further infection.
WHO has published the brief in the context of some countries announcing the possibility of providing “immunity passports” or “safe certificates” to citizens who have already been infected.
Provinces have different approaches to relax public health orders that have been put in place to limit the spread of the new coronavirus.
Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, for example, continue to urge people to stay at home as much as possible, while New Brunswick announced Friday that low-risk outdoor activities like golf, hunting and fishing could resume.
Ontario and Quebec have announced that they will present their recovery plans next week. The Premier of Quebec, François Legault, said that his government would detail separate plans for schools and then for businesses.
Legault and the province’s director of public health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, pushed for the idea of ”collective immunity” as an approach to reopening schools. This strategy consists in exposing a large proportion of Quebecers to the new coronavirus in a measured and gradual manner, to help them develop natural immunity.
This theory follows the logic of a vaccination program. When people get a vaccine, they are given a weakened form of the virus, which allows their immune systems to build antibodies to kill it.
“The idea is to go very gradually so that people who are less at risk can develop antibodies so that they can become immune,” Legault told reporters earlier in the week.
But Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, warned of this approach on Saturday. She said the federal government has set up an immunity task force that will examine how people’s immune systems respond to COVID-19.
She said that since many Canadians have followed physical distance orders, the percentage of the population vaccinated is “fairly low”. And despite the evidence that the virus is particularly dangerous for the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, young people are still at risk.
“So the idea of generating natural immunity is actually not something that I think should be undertaken,” she said. “I personally think that as doctors we would be extremely careful about this type of approach. “
The number of cases in Canada exceeded 45,000 on Saturday. The global death toll, meanwhile, has exceeded 200,000.
Many of the deaths in Canada are attributable to people living in retirement homes and long-term care facilities, who have struggled to manage outbreaks among residents and staff.
For example, five of the six COVID-19 deaths reported in Nova Scotia on Saturday occurred at the Northwood long-term care home in the Halifax Regional Municipality. Nova Scotia has 10 licensed long-term care homes and unlicensed seniors’ facilities with COVID-19 cases, involving 191 residents and 90 employees.
The situation is much worse in Quebec, where 65% of the province’s 1,446 COVID deaths occurred in long-term care facilities, many of which are severely understaffed. Another 15% of the total number of deaths in the province comes from retirement homes.
Front line health care workers in Ontario, such as long-term care homes, will receive an increase of $ 4 an hour for the next four months, Premier Doug Ford announced on Saturday.
Aside from long-term care homes, the Prime Minister has declared that the premium will be offered to workers in seniors’ residences, emergency shelters, supportive housing, social services including nursing homes , correctional and youth justice facilities, home and community care providers and staff. in the hospital.
The Prime Minister made the announcement when dozens of protesters appeared before the provincial legislature to challenge the measures of physical distancing set by the province.
“It just burns me,” said Ford, who called the protesters “reckless” and “selfish.”
“We have health workers working around the clock, but then we have a bunch of yahoos protesting that they are breaking the law and putting workers at risk. “