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

Land purchase brings early treaty benefit to Halalt First Nation

Ownership taken of Crofton Corners and Chemainus River Storage

RCMP remind drivers of school zone safety as classes resume

Keep your foot off the gas or police might get their hands… Continue reading

Centennial Hall upgrade, parking lot paving among postponed capital projects in Lake Cowichan

Council lowers tax increase for the year due to COVID-19 crisis

Mill Bay students petition for formal graduation

“We have a few realistic ideas in mind that could provide a safe and healthy grad celebration”

800 meals donated for Cowichan frontline workers

They were at Cowichan District Hospital on May 25 handing out prepared meals to grateful workers

Only four new COVID-19 cases, 228 active across B.C.

Health officials watching as activities ramp up

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Feds looking at ways to reunite families amid COVID-19 border restrictions with U.S.

Some families with members of dual-citizenship have become separated due to the pandemic

B.C. aquaculture farm’s employees sweat it out to raise funds for food banks

For every five minutes of exercise recorded, Cermaq Canada is donating a dollar to local food banks in communities they operate

Condition in kids with possible COVID-19 link being studied in Canada

This month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert to doctors about MIS-C

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

COVID cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a BC mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

Stepdad able to walk bride down the aisle days before he passes away

Ceremony held amidst pandemic in order to fulfill bride’s wish to have stepdad give her away

Trudeau acknowledges racial unrest in U.S.; ‘We also have work to do in Canada’

‘Anti-black racism, racism, is real; it’s in the United States, but it’s also in Canada,’ Trudeau says

Most Read