As countries around the world contemplate fresh lockdowns, spiraling caseloads and the inexorable surge of new Covid-19 deaths, leaders have at times struggled to capture the frustration and despair brought on by the crisis.
But Justin Trudeau probably came close to successfully channelling the global mood when he offered a blunt assessment of the situation on Tuesday.
“We are in an unprecedented global pandemic that … really sucks,” he said.
The prime minister’s remarks came as Canada approaches 10,000 deaths from coronavirus and a fresh leap in case numbers, and they marked a sharp departure from the uplifting tone he often reaches for in public.
“It’s tough going through this second wave. It’s frustrating having shut down all of us – our lives through the spring – and now be forced to make more difficult choices, and knowing that it’s going to be a tough winter ahead as well.”
Trudeau’s message also offered a stark contrast to the dismissive or over optimistic tone set by some other world leaders – such as Jair Bolsonaro who dismissed coronavirus as a “little flu”, and Donald Trump, who has repeatedly claimed that the end of the pandemic is “round the corner”.
In a tweet on Monday, Trump falsely claimed that a recent rise in cases was actually the result of increased testing, and complained that he was the victim of a “media conspiracy” against his re-election campaign. More than 226,000 Americans have died of coronavirus.
Lori Turnbull, a professor of political science at Dalhousie university, said that Trudeau’s comments appeared to be a plain recognition of the facts rather than the result of a media strategy.
“We’re in the middle of a second wave. Ontario and Quebec are getting hit particularly hard. This is not where he wants to be at all. He’s commiserating with people; he feels our pain and it’s his pain too,” she said. “We’re seeing political leaders in Canada use more blunt, plain language. Not because it’s overtly strategic, but because we’re in a crisis and we’re stuck here and we hate it.”
Like some other nations, Canada was able to get the virus largely under control by late summer, with only a handful of new infections in major cities by August.
But as the weather turns chilly, the rapid spread of new cases has been a difficult and frustrating setback.
Trudeau said that his six-year-old son recently asked if Covid-19 would last forever.
“It sucks. It really, really does,” said the prime minister, acknowledging that family gatherings over the winter holidays were likely in jeopardy. “It’s frustrating to see friends at the other end of the country doing things you’d love to be able to do but you can’t.”
Despite his bleak assessment, Trudeau also offered a positive note.
“We will get through this. Vaccines are on the horizon,” he said. “Spring and summer will come and they will be better than this winter.”