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

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

The 4th Annual Fraser Valley Marches for Women March is virtual this year, and this file shot depicts speeches from the first march from Jan. 20, 2018. (Jennifer Feinberg/Chilliwack Progress file)
Video on women’s march emphasizes that violence against women increasing

Key messages from Chilliwack women leaders as the FV Marches for Women March goes virtual

Abbotsford Police officers investigate the scene after a pedestrian was struck and killed on Friday morning. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Male pedestrian, 37, killed in Abbotsford after being struck by vehicle

Collision took place in 31800 block of South Fraser Way on Friday morning

A screenshot from a local Instagram account video. The account appeared to be frequented by Mission students, and showed violent videos of students assaulting and bullying other students.
Parents, former students describe ‘culture of bullying’ in Mission schools

Nearly two dozen voices come forward speaking of abuse haunting the hallways

(Black Press Media files)
Snowfall expected for Lower Mainland on Saturday night, Sunday morning

2 to 5 cm of snow predicted Metro Vancouver, according to Environment Canada

A door is boarded up following a fire at Pho Xuan restaurant on Yale Road on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
UPDATE: Early morning blaze at Chilliwack restaurant

Fire erupted north of the overpass at Pho Xuan which was permanently closed

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Police are searching for an alleged sex offender, Nicole Edwards, who they say has not returned to her Vancouver halfway house. (Police handout)
Police hunt for woman charged in ‘horrific’ assault who failed to return to Surrey halfway house

Call 911 immediately if you see alleged sex offender Nicole Edwards, police say

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Prince Edward Island’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. A lozenge plant in Prince Edward Island has laid off 30 workers, citing an “almost non-existent” cold and cough season amid COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Almost non-existent’ cold and cough season: P.E.I. lozenge plant lays off 30 workers

The apparent drop in winter colds across the country seems to have weakened demand for medicine and natural remedies

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
Disgraced Kelowna social worker faces another class-action lawsuit

Zackary Alphonse claims he was not informed of resources available to him upon leaving government care

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Most Read