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 Tang

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 Tang

Trudeau says too early to discuss ‘immunity passports’ for people recovered from COVID

Trudeau said recovery plans do not hinge on people being immune to catching COVID-19 twice

It’s premature to talk about “immunity passports” for Canadians who have been infected with COVID-19, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Saturday, because the science is unclear about whether those who have recovered from the virus are protected from catching it again.

As provinces begin opening up their economies from COVID-19 lockdowns, Trudeau said none of those recovery plans hinge on people being immune to catching COVID-19 twice.

Trudeau said he spoke to premiers Friday and they discussed a basic framework that provinces will use as they reopen businesses, schools and other institutions. The focus, he said, is on preventing the spread of the virus through physical distancing and personal protective equipment.

“It is very clear that the science is not decided on whether or not having had COVID once prevents you from having it again,” he told reporters. ”It’s something we need to get clearer answers to and until we get those clearer answers, we need to err on the side of more caution.”

Trudeau was responding to a recent World Health Organization brief stating there is no evidence that people who have recovered from the virus have antibodies that protect them from getting infected again.

The WHO issued the brief after some countries announced the possibility of providing so-called “immunity passports” or “risk-free certificates” to citizens who have already been infected.

But on Saturday, the international body walked that back some.

“We expect that most people who are infected with COVID-19 will develop an antibody response that will provide some level of protection,” the organization wrote on Twitter. “What we don’t yet know is the level of protection or how long it will last.”

The WHO said scientists around the world are working to answer that key question.

In Canada, the provinces have varying approaches to relaxing public health orders that were put in place to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, for instance, continue to urge citizens to stay home as much as possible, while New Brunswick announced Friday low-risk outdoor activities such as golf, hunting and fishing were permitted to resume.

Ontario and Quebec announced they would present their recovery plans in the coming week, with Quebec Premier Francois Legault saying his government would detail separate plans for schools and then for businesses.

Legault and the province’s director of public health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, have been pushing the idea of “herd immunity” as an approach to re-opening schools. That strategy involves exposing a large proportion of Quebecers to the novel coronavirus in a measured, gradual way, to help them develop a natural immunity.

That theory follows the logic of a vaccination program. When people receive a vaccine, they are given a weakened form of the virus, allowing their immune system to build antibodies to kill it.

“The idea is to go very gradually so that people who are less at risk can develop antibodies to be able to become immune,” Legault told reporters earlier in the week.

But Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, warned against that approach Saturday. She said the federal government has put in place an immunity task force that will investigate how people’s immune systems are responding to COVID-19.

She said that since many Canadians have followed physical distancing orders, the percentage of the immunized population is “quite low.” And despite evidence that the virus is particularly dangerous to older people and those with underlying health conditions, younger 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 medical officers, we would be extremely cautious about that kind of approach.”

The case count in Canada topped 45,000 on Saturday. The global death toll, meanwhile, climbed above 200,000.

READ MORE: Canada’s top doctor says measures ‘starting to pay off’, even as COVID-19 deaths near 2,500

Many of the deaths in Canada have been people in seniors’ homes and long-term care facilities, which have struggled to manage outbreaks among residents and staff.

Five of the six deaths connected to COVID-19 that were reported Saturday in Nova Scotia, for example, occurred at the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax Regional Municipality. There are 10 licensed long-term care homes and unlicensed seniors’ facilities in Nova Scotia with cases of COVID-19, involving 191 residents and 90 staff.

The situation is far worse in Quebec, where 65 per cent of the province’s 1,446 COVID deaths have occurred at long-term care facilities, many of which are severely understaffed. Another 15 per cent of the province’s death total comes from senior homes.

In Ontario, frontline workers in facilities such as long-term care homes, will receive a raise of $4 per hour for the next four months, Premier Doug Ford announced Saturday.

Aside from the long-term care homes, the premier said the bonus will be available for workers in seniors’ residences, emergency shelters, supportive housing, social services congregate care settings, corrections institutions and youth justice facilities, home and community care providers and some staff in hospitals.

The premier made the announcement as dozens of protesters took to the provincial legislature to defy physical distancing measures set by the province.

“It just burns me up,” said Ford, who called the protesters “reckless” and “selfish.”

“We have health-care people working tirelessly, but then we have a bunch of yahoos sitting there protesting as they’re breaking the law and putting workers in jeopardy.”

READ MORE: B.C.’s COVID-19 death toll reaches 100; 95 new cases with nearly half from prison outbreak

Giuseppe Valiante, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CanadaCoronavirusJustin Trudeau

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

Just Posted

Elias Pettersson and the Vancouver Canucks drew a large crowd to the Abbotsford Centre in 2019. Canucks management hopes the crowds return for the planned AHL team this fall, and early returns are positive. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
Canucks: ‘Incredible’ early interest for Abbotsford AHL tickets

Team has had a strong response to both e-mail information and priority ticket lists

Red dot shows location where fisherman was rescued by boater on Friday, May 7, 2021. Other fisher still missing presumed drowned after boat swamped on Fraser River near Vedder/Sumas confluence. Rescued man swam to shore after boat sank, while friend is still classified as missing as of May 10. (City of Chilliwack map)
Fisherman still missing after boat flipped on the Fraser River

One man made it out, other still missing, after anchor got snagged in the Fraser near Chilliwack

Corina Rochon has been working the front lines of the pandemic in the intensive care unit at Abbotsford Regional Hospital. She is also an instructor in the nursing program at University of the Fraser Valley.
Pandemic the most challenging of Abbotsford nurse’s 16-year career

Corina Rochon works front lines at Abbotsford Regional Hospital

Joan Septembre went for a weekend hike at Lindeman Lake, parking next to a vehicle that had two windows smashed in. (submitted photo)
Thieves active at Lindeman Lake and other parking spots along Chilliwack Lake Road

The hiking community is lamenting an uptick in car theft and vandalism as the weather gets nicer

Dario Lopez comes to the Cascades from Madrid, Spain where he played in very competitive junior leagues. (Dan Kinvig/UFV Athletics)
UFV Cascades sign Spanish basketball talent

High-scoring forward Dario Lopez joins team for 2021-22 season

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a ‘person of interest’ in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
RCMP identify ‘person of interest’ in Kootenay National Park suspicious death

Police are looking for Philip Toner, who was known to a woman found dead near Radium last week

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save on Winnipeg Jets’ Nate Thompson (11) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Vancouver Canucks see NHL playoff hopes dashed despite 3-1 win over Winnipeg

Montreal Canadiens earn final North Division post-season spot

The B.C. legislature went from 85 seats to 87 before the 2017 election, causing a reorganization with curved rows and new desks squeezed in at the back. The next electoral boundary review could see another six seats added. (Black Press files)
B.C. election law could add six seats, remove rural protection

North, Kootenays could lose seats as cities gain more

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of an Indigenous woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation wants ‘massive change’ after its 3rd police shooting in less than a year

Nuu-chah-nulth woman recovering from gunshot wounds in weekend incident near Ucluelet

Nurse Gurinder Rai, left, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Maria Yule at a Fraser Health drive-thru vaccination site, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The site is open for vaccinations 11 hours per day to those who have pre-booked an appointment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID vaccine bookings to open for adults 40+, or 18+ in hotspots, across B.C.

Only people who have registered will get their alert to book

Dr. Victoria Lee, CEO of Fraser Health, hosts an update on efforts to contain B.C.’s COVID-19 transmission in Surrey and the Fraser Valley and protect hospitals in the Lower Mainland, May 6, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate slowing, 20 more people die

Deaths include two people in their 40s, two in their 50s

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

Most Read