Premier Scott Moe speaks to media in the rotunda during Budget Day at Legislative Building in Regina, Saskatchewan on Wednesday March 20, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Bell

Canada’s COVID death toll passes 2,000; Saskatchewan outlines reopening plans

Public health experts say mass testing is critical to detect those who have the virus but no symptoms

Canada’s COVID-19 death toll passed the 2,000 mark on Thursday as scientists across the country scrambled to find a treatment or vaccine for coronavirus disease and Saskatchewan became the first province to announce detailed plans for easing up on the economically devastating restrictions imposed to fight the pandemic.

The grim milestone came as Ontario announced that 54 more people had died from the disease — a slightly bigger increase than on Wednesday. Quebec reported 109 new deaths. At least half the country’s fatalities have been in nursing homes.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadians have been failing our parents and grandparents in long-term care homes. To help them, the government planned to send the military to nursing homes in Ontario and Quebec, but Trudeau said it should never have come to this.

“We shouldn’t have soldiers taking care of seniors,” he said. “We will all have to ask tough questions about how it came to this.”

The prime minister’s comments came as Nova Scotia reported three more deaths at a Halifax-area long-term care home and another at a care home in Sydney, N.S.

An emotional Ontario Premier Doug Ford, whose mother-in-law has tested positive at a seniors home in Toronto, said, “The system needs to be changed and we’re changing the system.”

The economic fallout from the pandemic has prompted anxiety over when anti-COVID restrictions might ease. Canadian governments would be watching closely — but make their own decisions — as American jurisdictions moved toward easing their isolation measures, Trudeau said.

Georgia, for example, planned to start opening its doors on Friday, a timeline that even U.S. President Donald Trump has questioned. The U.S. is approaching 50,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths with a known caseload exceeding 850,000. Canada has reported about 41,700 cases and more than 2,100 deaths.

With a wary eye on getting normal life on track, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe on Thursday offered a detailed five-phase plan to reopen parts of the province’s economy: Starting May 4, dentist offices, optometry clinics and physical therapy providers can open, while some retail stores might be allowed to operate as of May 19. P.E.I. has said some outdoor activities and elective surgeries could restart in early May.

To help combat the coronavirus scourge, the federal government announced further measures aimed at mobilizing scientists and researchers.

Trudeau said Ottawa would roll out $1.1 billion for a national medical and research strategy, with $662 million earmarked for clinical trials to test vaccines and treatments as they are developed. A vaccine is the long-term solution, the PM said, but until then, Canadians need to slow the spread so the economy can get going again.

Another $350 million would be used to expand national testing and modelling in the interim.

Public health experts say mass testing is critical to detect those who have the virus but no symptoms. The concern is that asymptomatic carriers can unwittingly infect others, triggering a second surge in cases. The country’s top public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, has said 60,000 daily tests are needed, triple the current number.

Tam also said it was important to detect people with immunity to the COVID virus. Having immunity would likely mean no longer being subject to the anti-pandemic measures that have devastated the economy and prompted unprecedented federal bailouts.

More demands on the treasury came from the country’s municipalities. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities asked Ottawa to give local governments as much as $15 billion over the next six months to stave off financial ruin.

As examples, the organization said transit ridership was down because people were being told to stay home.

Municipal councils have also been considering, or have approved, delays in collecting property taxes to give residents a financial break.

— 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

‘Not a joke’: Promoter wants to rocket-launch man the length of White Rock pier

Brooke Colby says he’s building an eight-foot rocket in his backyard

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Dry-grad cancelled, Elgin Park students make donation to food bank

Students donate $1,800 to food bank after being forced to cancel graduation event

Prospera Credit Union, Westminster Savings lay off over 100 staff following historic merge

2020 merger was largest credit-union merger in Canadian history

COVID-19: Daily update on the pandemic in Surrey, White Rock and beyond

MAY 23: There is an outbreak at a Lower Mainland fruit processing plant

LIVE: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

Help the ‘Cloverdale Reporter’ continue its mission to provide trusted local news

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money

Boy, 2, left with ‘soft tissue injuries’ after being hit by car in Squamish intersection

Boy was release from hospital, police continue to investigate

B.C. premier says lessons to learn from past racism during response to pandemic

B.C. formally apologized in the legislature chamber in 2008 for its role in the Komagata Maru tragedy

Most Read