COVID-19 in Canada: Trudeau challenges Trump's claim that vaccine will be available 'in weeks', Quebec wavering at 'tipping point'

Elisabetta Bianchini
·8-min read

For more on today’s top stories and the spread of the novel coronavirus across the country, please refer to our live updates below throughout the day, as well as our COVID-19 news hub.

Trudeau says COVID-19 vaccine won’t come before the new year

At a press conference on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded to U.S. President’s Donald Trump’s claim that a viable COVID-19 vaccine could be available in a matter of “weeks,” if not by the end of the year.

“We are hopeful that the vaccines will arrive yesterday, but they won’t,” Trudeau said. “There’s still a number more months of work to do.”

“Reasonable expectation is that vaccines could start to arrive sometime in the new year but even then, there will be smaller amounts of doses that will have to be distributed to priority populations, I think of most vulnerable or our frontline workers.”

The prime minister also said Canada has “an excellent portfolio of vaccine potentials” but stressed that “nobody’s got a vaccine yet.”

“There are still trials going on, there are still a number of companies, some closer than others, but we are waiting to ensure that those vaccines are effective and further, that they will be safe for Canadians,’ Trudeau said. “Nothing will be distributed in Canada until Health Canada is absolutely certain that the safety of Canadians is being properly covered and taken care of.”

PM looking at Alberta travel pilot project to guide loosening border restriction

The prime minister also commented on yesterday’s announcement that Alberta will begin a pilot project in November, allowing travellers to be tested for COVID-19 upon returning to the province to reduce the required self-isolation time

“We’re interested in seeing the result of this pilot project, but it is only a pilot project,” Trudeau said. “As we move forward into the coming months and perhaps look at loosening some of the border restrictions internationally, we will be able to have data to rely on to make sure that we are first and foremost, keeping Canadian’s safe and controlling the spread of the virus.”

‘This is serious’

When speaking more generally about the COVID-19 situation in Canada, the prime minister stressed to Canadians that the daily case numbers in the country need to be reduced, as Canada saw its highest single-day increase on Thursday, totalling 2,786 cases.

“We have to get these numbers down, this is serious and everybody must do their part,” Trudeau said. “People's lives are at stake, we can’t afford to be careless or think that this virus will just go away on its own.”

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, spoke specifically about the increases in outbreaks in long-term care facilities in Canada, including Ontario and Quebec.

“The size of the outbreaks are smaller than in the initial wave,” Dr. Tam identified. “I’m not sure exactly what that means, that could be people are identifying things more rapidly and putting in control measures, and the prevention is better, but you have to watch this space really carefully.”

“It is an important indicator because it will be ahead of the lagging indicator of hospitalizations and of course, mortality. If we’re spotting long-term care outbreaks now, it’s very likely that an increase in number of hospitalizations and deaths will follow.”

$214 million for Canadian-made COVID-19 vaccines

The federal government also announced a $214 million investment for Canadian-made COVID-19 vaccine development.

Up to $173 million will be allocated to Medicago to advance their vaccine candidate and to create a production facility in Quebec City. The federal government has reached an agreement with the company to access 76 million doses of their vaccine.

Additionally, up to $18.2 million is being allocated to Vancouver-based Precision NanoSystems to progress their vaccine candidate development and testing.

“Canadians researchers are doing great work and we’re here to support that,” Trudeau said.

The prime minister also said Canada has received hundreds of thousands of Abbott Laboratories' Panbio COVID-19 Rapid Test, currently being distributed across the country.

He added that two trucks of the company’s ID NOW tests have arrived in Ontario, with more to come soon.

When asked why these tests were distributed to Ontario but now Quebec, where the highest care numbers are, Dr. Tam said there has been an “arrangement agreement” between provinces and territories in terms of per capita allocation of 80 per cent of the supply.

“This is just the first little bit of delivery,” she said. “What I was told...is that every province will get some per capita allocation and that there is an actual mechanism for provinces to request surge capacity, should they need it.”

Halton could move into modified Stage 2 next week

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said provincial officials are going to discuss the possibility of moving the Halton region to a modified Stage 2 over the weekend, saying the situation is “very concerning.”

“We’ll have that answer on Monday,” Ford said.

The premier also commented on famed Canadian chef and restauranteur, Mark McEwan, criticizeing the provincial government’s restrictions on restaurants in COVID-19 hotspots.

“I have a great deal of respect for Mark McEwan. Unfortunately, Mark’s not a medical professional, he’s a business owner,” Ford said. “I have to listen to the health professionals.”

Deputy Premier and Minister of Health also responded by saying this step needs to be taken to stop community spread of the virus.

“The idea is that this will flatten the curve, bring the numbers down to a more manageable level, not overwhelm our hospitals,” Elliott said. “The evidence also says that if you take these steps now that it prevent us from having to go into a longer period of lockdown with more economic shutdowns.”

The premier was also asked about long-term care facilities in the province and where conversations about assistance from the federal government stand.

“If they have a plan that they’re going to support us in long-term care, two things, we need to be at the table and secondly they have to help fund it,” Ford said. “Most of all, we need funding. We need the Canadian health transfer to increase...I’m talking long-term.”

CASES AND OUTBREAKS

Ontario continues to see cases over 800, seventh Toronto hospital reports outbreak

Ontario reported 826 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, including 292 cases in Toronto, 186 in Peel, 87 in Ottawa and 72 in York Region.

Once again, the province confirmed nine more COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total to 3,080. There are currently 276 people in hospitals with 78 in ICU.

Toronto’s Sunnybrook hospital has now declared an outbreak after five COVID-19 cases were identified in a surgical unit and all of the patients are asymptomatic. There are six other hospitals in the city that have declared outbreaks recently.

Ontario completed 40,019 tests in the last day with 35,436 tests currently under investigation.

Currently, 77 long-term care homes in the province are reporting outbreaks, with 229 active cases in residents and 237 in staff.

Ontario also reported 72 new school-related COVID-19 cases, including 39 student cases and six staff cases.

Quebec sees cases dip below 1,000 but at ‘tipping point’

Quebec reported 905 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, with 237 cases in Montreal, 137 cases in Montérégie and 117 in the Quebec City region.

At a press conference on Friday, Geneviève Guilbault, Quebec’s deputy premier, said the situation in the Quebec City region is “very critical”

“If we keep on the same track as we currently are, we are going straight into a wall,” she said. “The healthcare system will not even be able to take care of you anymore, in some cases. This is the reality.”

Régis Labeaume, Mayor of Quebec City said the region is at a “tipping point,” adding that he knows people are mad and they don’t know when this is going to be over, but everyone must still follow the public health measures in place.

“There’s no way out, we have to be more vigilant, we have to think about it 24 hours a day,” he said.

The province confirmed four death occurred in the last 24 hours and six deaths that occurred between Oct. 16 and Oct. 21. Quebec also reported two additional deaths that occurred at an unknown date.

There are currently 540 people with COVID-19 in hospitals and 99 in ICU.

A COVID-19 outbreak has been declared at Santa Cabrini hospital in Montreal and a “massive” screening of emergency room staff is taking place.

People in Montreal are being asked to avoid the ER at the hospital and anyone with “minor” health issues should contact their family doctor, visit a clinic or contact 811.

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