Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (The Canadian Press)

Trudeau rejects mandatory stay-at-home order for now; COVID deaths up

The virus has now infected more than 10,000 Canadians and cost 130 their lives

An already grim economic and employment toll looked set to worsen Thursday as authorities pondered further tightening restrictions on people and businesses aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said too many Canadians were still going out needlessly, potentially spreading the coronavirus and putting health-care workers at unnecessary risk. At the same time, Trudeau said he was leaning on restrictions provinces have put in place rather than issuing a mandatory national stay-at-home order.

“We’re not quite yet at that point,” Trudeau said.

The virus has now infected more than 10,000 Canadians and cost 130 their lives. Ontario on Thursday reported 16 more deaths bringing its total to 53, while a hard-hit nursing home in Bobcaygeon — possibly the site of the worst outbreak in the province — reported two new fatalities. Sixteen residents have died and at least 24 staff members have been infected.

Quebec saw its caseload rise about 20 per cent since Wednesday, with three more deaths. COVID-19 has now killed at least 36 people in the province and another 26 in British Columbia. Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said almost half of Canada’s COVID deaths have occurred in long term care homes.

Experts say keeping a physical distance from others, along with frequent hand washing, is the most effective way of easing pressure on an increasingly stressed health-care system, a message Trudeau underlined.

Governments everywhere have shut non-essential businesses and public facilities such as parks, beaches and playgrounds. All have repeatedly urged people to stay home except for essential outings and warned further restrictions were otherwise in the cards.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault said police should be less tolerant with those refusing to follow COVID-19 rules. He warned of fines of up to $6,000.

In Toronto, Mayor John Tory was to talk to the police chief and city staff to discuss increased enforcement of social distancing — ensuring people avoid groups and stay at least two metres apart. Police have issued 14 tickets, a spokeswoman said. Other jurisdictions have similarly arrested or fined alleged scofflaws.

The restrictions have taken a hideous toll on employment — more than one million Canadians are already reported as having applied for jobless benefits. The Liberal government was expected to detail how it would help the jobless weather the crisis — an effort expected ultimately to cost more than $250 billion.

A survey by Restaurants Canada, which speaks for the industry, indicated 800,000 jobs have been lost to the pandemic. Almost one in 10 restaurants have closed and nearly one in five expected to close if conditions didn’t improve in a month, the survey suggested.

The multibillions the government planned to inject into the economy to mitigate the devastation was the subject of reports from Parliament’s spending watchdog on Thursday. Just three federal measures — aimed at helping low-income earners, families and seniors — will cost more than $8 billion, budget officer Yves Giroux said.

COVID-19 in Canada
Infogram

However, an analysis from the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives estimated 862,000 unemployed workers —about one-third of the total — aren’t eligible for aid.

“We’re looking at ways to help everyone in Canada that needs it,” Trudeau said. “We know there are many vulnerable people.”

Federal New Democrats have been pushing for relief for Canadians unable to pay their rent, while the Bloc wants promised wage-subsidy money to flow more quickly than the six weeks the Liberal government has said it would take.

As many as 300,000 Canadians were expected to inquire about the government’s $2,000-a-month Canada Emergency Response Benefit each day. On Monday, the Canada Revenue Agency will begin delivering the federal benefits.

The agency normally has between 3,000 and 4,000 employees at call centres across the country for tax season, but more than 1,000 others have volunteered to bolster those numbers, many working from home.

– with files from Canadian Press reporters across the country.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

WATCH: City of West Kelowna opens up for public hearings

City staff have made sure residents keep their distance to minimize COVID-19 transmission

Motorbike crash on Glenmore Road

Traffic is slow going on Glenmore Road headed north

Interior Health region welcomes hundreds of babies amid pandemic

Kelowna, Vernon and Penticton welcomed a total of 561 babies between March 17 and May 24

Wine tours in the Okanagan are back

Wicked Wine Tours! will begin tours on June 1, 2020 after being shutdown due to COVID-19

North Westside residents shocked at fire chief’s suspension

Communities association president said they don’t know why the suspension happened

B.C. records no new COVID-19 deaths for the first time in weeks

Good news comes despite 11 new test-positive cases in B.C. in the past 24 hours

Dementia intensifies loneliness and loss for seniors in pandemic, says caregiver

Seniors care expert says patience and sharing keys to helping those with dementia cope through virus

Partial return to class for Central Okanagan students: COVID-19

School District 23 and the Board of Education have released a letter regarding returning to class

Peachland recovery task force proposes larger patios

Several initiatives proposed by the Peachland COVID-19 recovery task force will go to council tonight

Fatal motorcycle crash on Highway 97 near Summerland

The incident involving a motorcycle happened just before 4 p.m.

Tagging Suicide Hill in Vernon in lieu of grad party?

City councillor pitches idea to revive old tradition amid COVID-19 pandemic

BC Corrections to expand list of eligible offenders for early release during pandemic

Non-violent offenders are being considered for early release through risk assessment process

Fraser Valley driver featured on ‘Highway Thru Hell’ TV show dies

Monkhouse died Sunday night of a heartattack, Jamie Davis towing confirmed

Most Read