Nov 17, 2020
Justin Trudeau November 17 COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a press conference on November 17 to discuss COVID-19 updates. Read the full transcript of his speech here.
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Justin Trudeau: (00:00)
For Jonathan, he’s thinking first and foremost of the lives of the people around him. Jonathan closes his letter by saying, “Whatever needs to be done. I value the economy, but I value my own friends, family and fellow citizens’ lives first.” Thank you, Jonathan, for reaching out. I understand what you’re saying and I totally agree, but here’s the thing. By putting the health of your friends, family and fellow citizens first, you’re actually doing the very best thing to protect the economy, too. We don’t have to choose. We just have to act.
Justin Trudeau: (00:45)
On Saturday, Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, all saw record-breaking new cases. Dr. Tam has warned that this may mean hospitals soon reach a breaking point. In Nunavut, there have been outbreaks, too. As the government of Nunavut announced on Monday, a territory wide lockdown will go into effect tomorrow morning. No one wanted to see this news, but it was a possibility we had to be ready for. Our government has provided a three-month supply of personal protective equipment to Nunavut, just like the other territories, so communities are prepared if bad weather delays shipments.
Justin Trudeau: (01:27)
We’ve also provided funding through the Safe Restart Agreement, as well as additional direct support for communities through the Indigenous Community Support Fund. The federal government will continue to support the people of Nunavut just like we will for all Canadians. That’s exactly what I told the premiers when we met last week. At the same time though, I also reminded them that resources are not infinite.
Justin Trudeau: (01:55)
[foreign language 00:01:59].
Since March, we have sent over 312 million articles of personal protective equipment to the provinces and territories, including masks, gloves, shirts and face coverings. We’ve also sent close to 12 million swabs and hundreds of ventilators. This adds to the contribution of over $25 billion that we have given to the provinces and territories to support Canadians throughout the country.
Whether it’s been through the Safe Restart Agreement, or a fund for a safe return to school, or transfers for essential workers, healthcare and the North, we are making sure that Canadians are getting the funds that they need. We’re continuing to prepare to distribute a safe and efficient vaccine throughout the country as soon as it’s ready. On this topic, yesterday, we received new encouraging news about a second vaccine, this one produced by Moderna.
Justin Trudeau: (03:02)
Canada has already secured tens of millions of doses of the Moderna vaccine candidate, along with a wide range of other promising options. Like Pfizer, BioNTech, Moderna has already submitted their vaccine candidate for Health Canada review, an important step in assessing efficacy and safety. This is good news. But remember, a vaccine can only protect you once you’ve gotten the shot. So until that happens, we all need to double down to get this second wave under control.
Justin Trudeau: (03:38)
Particularly speaking to young people, this virus might seem like it’s more of a concern for your grandparents than for you. But even if you’re young and healthy, getting COVID-19 can be incredibly serious. It could leave you with heart and lung issues, or it could cost you your life. I don’t say this to scare you. I say this because we need to be honest with ourselves about what we’re facing. You need to be wearing a mask, keeping your distance and washing your hands. You need to avoid gatherings. You need to get your flu shot, and you need to download and use the COVID Alert app.
Justin Trudeau: (04:22)
If you get a positive COVID-19 test result, the first thing you need to do is open your COVID Alert app and enter the one-time code your provincial health authority provides. This will anonymously notify people you may have been in contact with so that they can get tested, too. Then go straight home and isolate. Don’t stop at the grocery store. Don’t stop to say hi to your neighbor in their driveway. Go home. And after you’ve done all that, call someone you love. A positive test result can be scary. I remember how we felt after Sophie got her results back in March. There’s uncertainty and anxiety. But pulling together and following public health guidelines will get us all through this.
Justin Trudeau: (05:09)
[foreign language 00:05:12]
For families, parents, and workers, I know that things are difficult. But we can’t throw in the towel now. Regardless of how old you are, wear a mask, keep your distance and wash your hands. Avoid gatherings. Get the flu vaccine and use the Alert COVID app. As we did in the spring, it is together that we will succeed to get through this winter. Our government will do what it has to to be there for you, as long as is necessary.
And I’d also like to mention, that the new support measure that we announced for businesses, for rent, salary, help, loans, and support in the case of confinement, was adopted by The House of Commons. It is now before the Senate. As the vice prime minister said, we hope that this bill will be adopted quickly so that employers and employees can get the support they need as soon as possible.
Justin Trudeau: (06:18)
I want to end this morning by talking about something else our government is doing to protect you and your family. Earlier today, Minister Bains introduced the new Consumer Privacy Protection Act to give Canadians more control and greater transparency over how companies handle their personal information. This includes allowing people to move their information from one organization to another and the right to have their information deleted. For companies that don’t follow the rules, the CPPA gives the privacy commissioner order making power and the highest fines amongst G7 privacy laws.
Justin Trudeau: (06:58)
[foreign language 00:06:58]
Today, Minister Bains presented the new act on privacy measures for individuals to give more control to Canadians and offer them greater transparency around the way businesses use their confidential information. This is a very first on the international scene. This is founded on the work that we already did to protect information and the safety of people online, including with the Digital Charter that we launched last year to rebuild a strong and resilient economy, protect jobs, and support small businesses, because they’re adapting to this new reality. And so, we need to make sure that the internet is accessible, reliable, and safe. Thank you. I’ll now hand it over to Dr. Tam.
Dr. Tam: (07:52)
Good day everyone. [foreign language 00:07:54] There have been 302,192 cases of COVID-19 in Canada, including 11,027 deaths. Nationally, there are close to 51,000 active cases across the country. Over the past week, labs across Canada have tested an average of over 58,400 people daily with a 6.6% testing positive. Yesterday, 4,802 cases were reported nationally. In addition, there were over 1,300 new cases reported for Saturday and Sunday. This brings the average daily case counts almost 4,800 cases for the past week.
Dr. Tam: (08:41)
The number of people experiencing severe illness continues to increase. Over the past seven days, there were on average 1,675 individuals with COVID-19 being treated in Canadian hospitals, including over 330 in critical care and an average of 66 deaths were reported each day. Over the weekend and yesterday, there were a number of very troubling developments in the trajectory of COVID-19 resurgence in Canada. In addition to an ever increasing case counts and rising numbers of hospitalizations, critical care missions and deaths, we are seeing disease transmission spill over into the most vulnerable populations. Cases have been increasing in elderly adults for several weeks, with those over 80 years of age, now having the highest incidence rates nationally.
Dr. Tam: (09:33)
More and more outbreaks are occurring in long-term care homes, congregate living settings and hospitals and spreading in Indigenous communities. Most recently, Nunavut has implemented a two-week territory wide restriction period to interrupt the spread of COVID-19. I am deeply concerned of these developments, because they put countless Canadians at risk of life-threatening illness, cause serious disruption to health services and present significant challenges for areas not adequately equipped to manage complex medical emergencies.
Dr. Tam: (10:06)
We have to remind every Canadian of the importance of individual actions to protect our most vulnerable. Right now, every effort you make matters. As much as you can, limit errands and outings, just the essentials. Keep in-person social activities to just your existing household and strictly and consistently follow public health measures. This is what is needed for us now to slow the spread and keep COVID-19 out of high-risk settings, keep schools and workplaces open in a safer way and prevent further restrictions.
Dr. Tam: (10:40)
The measure of a society is in how it protects its most vulnerable. Canadians are once again at a critical juncture. Let’s do everything we can to protect and support others by staying physically apart but using everything we’ve learned to support each other through these times. Keep connecting virtually, do check-ins over the phone, say hello from across the street, or drop off a care package. Whatever it takes, let’s protect and support each other. I said it in the spring, and I’ll say it again now. Canada, it’s time to plank the curve. Thank you.
Dr. Tam: (11:14)
[foreign language 00:11:17]
Hello everyone. There have been 302,192 cases of COVID-19 in Canada, including 11,027 deaths. Nationally, there are close to 51,000 active cases across the country. Over the past week, labs across Canada have tested an average of over 58,400 people daily, with 6.6% testing positive. Yesterday, 4,802 cases were reported nationally. In addition, there were over 1,300 new cases reported for Saturday and Sunday. This brings the average daily case count to almost 4,800 cases for the past week.
The number of people experiencing severe illness continues to increase. Over the past seven days, there were on average 1,675 individuals with COVID-19 being treated in Canadian hospitals, including over 330 in critical care, and an average of 66 deaths were reported each day. Over the weekend and yesterday, there were a number of very troubling developments in the trajectory of COVID-19 resurgence in Canada.
In addition to ever increasing case counts and rising numbers of hospitalizations, critical care admissions and deaths, we are seeing disease transmission spill over into the most vulnerable populations. Cases have been increasing in elderly adults for several weeks, with those over 80 years of age now having the highest incidents rate nationally. More and more outbreaks are occurring in long-term care homes, congregate living settings and hospitals, and spreading in Indigenous communities. Most recently, Nunavut had to implement a two-week territory wide restriction period to interrupt the spread of COVID-19.
We are deeply concerned at these developments, because they put countless Canadians at risk of life-threatening illness, cause serious disruptions to health services and present significant challenges for areas not adequately equipped to manage complex medical emergencies. We have to remind every Canadian of the importance of individual actions to protect our most vulnerable. Right now, every effort you make matters. As much as you can, limit errands and outings to just the essentials, keep in-person social activities to just your existing household and strictly and consistently follow public health measures. This is what is needed of us now to slow the spread and keep COVID-19 out of high-risk settings, keep schools and workplaces open in a safer way and prevent further restrictions. The measure of a society is in how it protects its most vulnerable. Canadians are once again at a critical juncture. Let’s do everything we can to protect and support others by staying physically apart and using everything we’ve learned to support each other through these times. Keep connecting virtually, do check-ins over the phone, say hello from across the street, or drop off a care package, whatever it takes. Let’s protect and support each other. We said it in the spring, and we’ll say it again now. Canada, it’s time to plank the curve. Thank you.
Speaker 1: (15:16)
Thank you, Dr. Njoo. Now the prime minister will be answering questions for 20 minutes today. Starting with the phone, following with questions in the room.
Speaker 1: (15:23)
[foreign language 00:15:24].
The prime minister will answer questions for 20 minutes, starting by the phone line and then questions in the room. And the doctors will remain here to answer your questions after. Operators, over to you.
Speaker 2: (15:37)
Thank you. First question. Janice Dixon, The Globe [inaudible 00:15:41] line open.
Janice Dixon: (15:43)
Hi Prime Minister. The Globe reported this morning on Andrew Scheer employing his sister-in-law while his sister-in-law employs his wife. Do you believe that’s appropriate?
Justin Trudeau: (15:54)
I think that is much more appropriately a question for Mr. Scheer and for the Conservative Party of Canada.
Janice Dixon: (16:01)
Well currently, The House of Commons rules allow MPs to hire their in-laws. I’m wondering if you think those rules are appropriate and if not, if they should change?
Justin Trudeau: (16:11)
I think that’s certainly a reflection that’s going to be had at the Board of Internal Economy around how we ensure that we’re upholding the confidence that Canadians place in all parliamentarians.
Speaker 3: (16:24)
Thank you. Operator, next question on the phone.
Speaker 2: (16:28)
Thank you. [foreign language 00:00:16:29] Next question. Ryan Tumilty, National Post. Line open.
Ryan Tumilty: (16:35)
Yeah. Good morning sir. The information commissioner’s out with a fairly scathing report about how the RCMP handles access to information requests. Not only did it found that delays are piling up the RCMP, but the commissioner [inaudible 00:16:52] of the RCMP did not seem to be at all interested in addressing the issue. And moreover, even the minister of public safety was at best lukewarm on solving the problem. I’m wondering what your response is to that report and if your government is still interested in fixing the access to information systems?
Justin Trudeau: (17:10)
Canadians need to have confidence in their institutions. We need, particularly, to have confidence in institutions like police forces like the RCMP. One of the best ways to do that is to demonstrate transparency and accountability. We have seen in the past, that there have been challenges on that. And I thank the information commissioner for bringing that forward. And we will certainly be looking at how we can ensure that Canadians have full confidence in their national police force.
Speaker 3: (17:43)
Following up, Ryan.
Ryan Tumilty: (17:46)
Yeah, sir. The commissioner made 15 recommendations specific to this issue. Will you commit your government to implementing those recommendations?
Justin Trudeau: (17:56)
We’re going to look very closely at those recommendations and move forward on the ones that will restore Canadians’ confidence in our access information regime and the work that our institutions do to respond to it.
Speaker 3: (18:10)
[foreign language 00:18:10].
Thank you. Operator, our last question on the phone.
Speaker 2: (18:16)
[foreign language 00:18:15] Katherine [inaudible 00:18:16]
[foreign language 00:18:23] Katherine [inaudible 00:18:23]. Hello Mr. Trudeau. I’d like to hear you talk about another report, the one from the parliamentary budget officer. Over $2 billion, we heard, could have been saved by buying equipment from Davies rather from the ones purchased from CSPAN. So I’d like to have your response on that. If you had to do it again with the federal government, should the federal government have chosen a more economical option?
[foreign language 00:00:18:51]
Of course, we’re always going to study reports from the PBO. We will learn better how things could have unfolded, and we will review that report.
… unfolded, and we will review that report. About the project for the shipyards, we know how important it is for people to be able to plan ahead. C-SPAN was chosen. We were able to add a third place. We gave the contracts to Davie, because we recognize the important and excellent work that the Davie workers do. And we will continue looking for opportunities to build ships here in Canada, to make sure that we have the right equipment for Canadians, while ensuring that the investments made are responsible. A follow-up question.
Yes, concerning Huawei, Erin O’Toole asked you about that today. Why does it take so much time to make a decision? Could you make a decision in the next 30 days? And maybe this is a negotiation technique to liberate both Michaels from the outset. We have relied on the advice of our experts in national security and intelligence. We have always worked with those who are in charge of this. We have worked with and consulted our allies throughout the world before making a decision based on expert recommendations.
Justin Trudeau: (20:37)
As we’ve said from the beginning, we will continue to trust our security agencies and experts when it comes to making this important decision on how to protect Canadians and our businesses in an increasingly interconnected world. We have worked with our allies. We have consulted broadly, and I can tell you that the decision we will make will be based on the recommendations of our security agencies.
Thank you. We’ll now go to questions in the room.
Mia Rabson: (21:09)
Good morning, Mia Rabson from the Canadian Press. Last spring when the pandemic was just starting in Canada, you had a message to Canadians that it was time to come home, that you wanted people not to be traveling internationally. As we’re heading into the winter there are a lot of snowbirds who are suggesting that they want to travel, and do plan to go to the United States. What’s your message to them? Is that a safe thing to do right now?
Justin Trudeau: (21:29)
Canada’s official travel advisory is that all Canadians should avoid international travel. The pandemic continues to cause significant challenges around the world, including in the Southern United States. And people are safest when they stay at home in Canada. Obviously, if people do choose to go, that is their choice, but they need to make sure they have good health insurance, good travel insurance, also, that they sure that wherever they’re going there is sufficient healthcare capacity, that it is not beginning to get overwhelmed if something goes wrong. But that’s why as a government, we recommend people not travel internationally while this pandemic is going on.
As government, we recommend that Canadians do not travel abroad during this pandemic. If people choose to do it, they have to accept the risks of that, they have to have good insurance, and they must be aware that health systems around the world are being overwhelmed by this this second wave. And they might have a hard time getting the healthcare services they need if the worst case scenario happens. So that’s why we strongly recommend that Canadians stay home.
Annie B.: (22:54)
Hello, Prime Minister, it’s Annie Bergeron-Oliver with CTV National News. There have been calls from mayors and doctors for the federal government to step in and do more, including implementing tougher measures like a temporary lockdown. Are you afraid to take this action because of political blowback from businesses and other sectors? And also, what do you say to those businesses who are angry that they still have not received the rent subsidy because parliament has yet to pass C-9?
Justin Trudeau: (23:18)
First of all, we have been there from the beginning for businesses and for Canadians. And we will continue to. The best way to get through this with a strong economy is to focus on protecting Canadians, and slowing the spread of this virus. That is the decision we took from the very beginning as a government. That’s why we made the commitment to have each other’s backs, have Canadians backs, and we will, whatever it takes, and as long as it takes. The rent assistance that was passed through the house with C-9, that we hope will pass through the Senate shortly, will be retroactive to the beginning of October, and includes a 25% top-up for businesses in places like Montreal, Toronto, and elsewhere, where public health authorities have forced a shutdown.
Justin Trudeau: (24:08)
We know that this is extremely difficult on Canadians and on businesses, but the position of the federal government from the beginning has been to make the difficult decisions by regional authorities, by provincial authorities, by local public health authorities easier in knowing that businesses that have to close will get strong support from the federal government. That’s the promise we made, and that’s a promise we’re keeping.
We made a promise to Canadians that the federal government would be there during this pandemic. Whatever happens, whatever the level of need is, we will be there for families, for workers, for small businesses and large businesses. And we have been there, and we will continue to be there. The federal government is currently going forward with bill C-9, which should be passed in the Senate in the following days, which would allow up to 90% support for commercial rents, for businesses that were forced to close because of public health directives. We are here to support businesses, workers, families, elders and young people. We’re here to help Canadians get through this, because we know that the best way to protect the economy, and our businesses is to keep this pandemic under control and reduce the number of cases. This is what we’re going to do, and this is what we have done.
Hello, Mr. Trudeau from Canada, I have a question about the CPPA Act. There is no mechanism right now for those who are victims of information theft, who have lost everything, and who have to live with the stress of calls and paperwork, why didn’t you put a mechanism in this bill, and what do you say to those who are empty-handed because their identities were stolen? And response.
We are very concerned about these people who are victims of identity theft. We have put measures in place to continue working to help them. We want to give them normal life back after these criminal acts that they were a victim of. The bill that we put forward today is targeted at businesses that don’t inform Canadians of how their information is used, or don’t give them control over that. There are web giants out there, and we’ve seen them use information in a way that is not appropriate for Canadians confidentiality. They’ve used it for personal interest, and that’s why we’ve put in place measures that are some of the most stringent in the world, and very high fines, some of the highest in the world. And the idea is to make sure that the web giants, and the companies that manage the confidential information of citizens are accountable. And we want citizens to be in control of what happens with their data.
Tonda M.: (27:23)
Greetings Prime Minister, Tonda MacCharles, Toronto Star. Can you tell us more about your government’s signing of some contracts last week apparently that guarantee ultra-cold and refrigerated storage for about half, I guess 33 and a half million doses of vaccines? What are those contracts and what role do you see the military providing in vaccine delivery?
Justin Trudeau: (27:44)
As I’ve said from the beginning, the federal government is doing what is necessary to keep Canadians safe and get them through it. The first part of that was obviously making sure that we signed contracts with a range of vaccine producers, potential vaccine producers around the world to give Canadians assurance that regardless of which vaccines landed first, which companies were more successful in developing an effective vaccine than others, Canadians would have access to millions, tens of millions of doses of vaccines when they become available. That was really important. But obviously getting those vaccines from an airport tarmac, or a port to Canadians right across the country is a significant logistical challenge, one in which the government is focused on and working on ardently, to be able to make sure that as vaccines arrive, they are getting out to the most vulnerable and the people who need it in a priority basis.
Justin Trudeau: (28:46)
That will involve multiple government agencies, possibly private contracts as well, may well involve the Canadian Armed Forces. We are busy establishing different logistical approaches for the range of vaccines that will be hopefully arriving in Canada in the coming months. This government remains focused on delivering for Canadians, because we know that getting vaccines to Canadians is the best way of getting through what is going to be a very difficult winter for us all.
Response. From the outset, we have taken an approach that seeks to give access to a number of vaccines. We know that a number of companies around the world are currently working on developing vaccines, but we don’t know which one will be the most efficient, or that will arrive first. And that’s why we’ve signed contracts with a number of different companies. And Canada has one of the best potential vaccine portfolios in the world. But it’s not enough to just have signed these contracts for tens of millions of vaccine doses. We have to bring those vaccines directly to Canadians so they can be efficient. That’s why we’re working on logistics now, we’re working with the different government agencies, and there are partners in the private sector as well. And there’s the likelihood that the Canadian Armed Forces will be involved. We’ll continue to do everything that’s necessary to help Canadians get through this difficult winter, but we have hope for the spring.
John Perry: (30:25)
Prime Minister, John Perry, CBC. Can you talk a little bit about the talks that you’re having with the provinces and territories in terms of a national rollout strategy for these vaccines? And could you just clarify what role you do see the military playing, if any, in getting these vaccines out to people?
Justin Trudeau: (30:40)
Obviously conversations are ongoing with the provinces on a large range of subjects, particularly the hope everyone has around vaccines. It means that it’s of tremendous interest to a lot Canadians. We need to get through this second wave. We need to lower the number of cases and stop the rapid spread of COVID-19, because vaccines are many months away. Yes, we continue to work with the provinces and with various partners, including potentially the Canadian Armed Forces on delivering the vaccines. But like I’ve said, there are many different vaccines that require different logistical supports, from extreme cold storage to simple refrigeration, to potential room temperature doses as well.
Justin Trudeau: (31:27)
These are things that will require a differentiated approach, and we’re working very carefully and closely with the provinces and other partners to make sure that vulnerable Canadians get these vaccines on a priority basis. But even as I know, we all like to talk about the potential of vaccines in the coming months, we still have to get through the next month, and the month after that, before vaccines arrive, where we need to do what we can seeing the light at the end of the tunnel coming, knowing that we have to make sure that we’re getting through this difficult winter as best we can. That’s the focus of this government.
Abigail Beam: (32:04)
Hi Prime Minister, Abigail Beam, M Global News. Do you believe that a national lockdown is inevitable? And on the question on how broad one may be, I’m wondering where you stand on the idea of closing schools.
Justin Trudeau: (32:18)
I think those are questions that a lot of Canadians have. What are the next steps? How are we going to get this virus under control? What’s going to happen in schools? Those are questions quite rightly for our medical experts and for provincial authorities. As people know, the federal government’s role is to be there to support the provinces in the decisions they make. We’ve delivered over $25 billion in supports to the provinces for things like testing, contact tracing, and protection for vulnerable people. We’ve developed an app, we’ve worked on delivering PPE and manufacturing PPE in Canada. We’ve moved forward on supports for mental health for opioid addictions. We’ve moved forward with a range of investments, including getting kids back to school safely to the provinces. That is, that are all designed to be able to make sure that the provinces can make the right decisions to protect their citizens.
Justin Trudeau: (33:16)
On top of that, we’ve given direct supports to families right across the country, to workers who have been laid off or lost hours, to small businesses, to large businesses, we’ve continued to move forward on everything the federal government needs to do to make sure Canadians get through this. We will continue to work with the provinces and public health authorities on what needs to be done to get this pandemic under control. But obviously what they’re looking at in the Atlantic bubble, what they’re looking at in the Arctic, what they’re looking at in places like Alberta or Ontario differ greatly from one region to the next. And that’s why the federal government is there to support Canadians, to support the provinces, and to work with the provinces as they make the decisions on how to flatten the curve in their region.
A question, there was this issue of Christmas. Do you see more stringent federal restrictions coming into place? Do you think Christmas will be possible in small family groups?
Answer. I think that this idea of bringing up the Emergency Measures Act, or having more stringent restrictions, I don’t think we’re there yet. I hope we won’t. I don’t think we will, because what I see from the provinces is that they are taking action. They are putting in place more restrictions so that we can slow down COVID-19’s progression. We know that this will be no ordinary Christmas. It won’t be like Christmas 2019. And to what extent there will be restrictions or limits on what people can do, well, all of that will depend on the region they’re in, and it will also depend on what we manage to do together in the coming weeks. We have to act now. Dr. Tam highlighted that we might have 10,000 new cases per day in December. That is not the direction we want to head towards if we hope to have a Christmas that lets us at least have a sort of normal Christmas, but there’s things we can do right now to help us have the best circumstances possible.
Justin Trudeau: (35:44)
I think as we look towards the coming months, a lot of people are wondering what Christmas is going to look like. Obviously the holidays will be different this year than in years past, there’s no question about that. But how different and how much we’re able to do will depend on a few things. What region of the country you’re in, what people are able to do between now and the holidays in order to flatten the curve, to reduce the number of cases. We will continue to work with the provinces in a very collaborative way. The provinces all obviously want the same thing, to save as many lives as possible, to prevent our health systems from getting overwhelmed. And that’s why we’re going to continue to work with them. I don’t think it is going to be necessary, certainly it’s not desirable to invoke the Federal Emergencies Act. I think we can work closely with the provinces on making sure we’re all doing the right things without having to go heavy handed from the federal government.
Speaker 4: (36:43)
Thank you, Prime Minister. This is all the time you have it with us today.
That’s all the time you have with us today.
Speaker 4: (36:57)
Thank you. So we’ll now move on to the doctors. We’ll go to the phone for one question before continuing in the room, operator, over to you.
Speaker 5: (37:07)
Thank you. Next question, Dylan Robertson, the Winnipeg Free Press. Line open.
Dylan R.: (37:12)
Good morning Dr. Tam. I have a question about assessing contact tracing needs. Do we have any benchmarks for provinces to assess whether they have enough contact tracer? Who sets those metrics? And also why are Canadians getting contact tracing calls more than a week after someone tests positive?
Dr. Tam: (37:36)
So contact tracing is in the provincial jurisdiction, and it’s carried out by local medical offices or their teams, and being supported by the federal government as requested. So we have contact tracers that could potentially help, and the provinces would have to send in a request to supplement their…
Dr. Tam: (38:03)
… to send in a request to supplement the capacities.
Dr. Tam: (38:05)
What we’re seeing though, I think which has resulted in more restricted public health measures is that a number of jurisdictions are unable to do that rapid contact tracing, given that with the number of cases per day, and how many contacts they were having, this began to be overwhelming the actual public health system ability to do that.
Dr. Tam: (38:33)
So I think what you’re commenting on is that phenomenon, which is why restrictive measures were put in place in order to get the cases under control. And honestly, during that time, capacities have to be assured, prepared, and built, so that if you were to relax measures that the capacity is there to do the testing, detecting, and isolation. Many jurisdictions had a benchmark, which is to reach their contacts within a two day period, but that is not something that is attainable with so many contacts right now. So I think our message broadly speaking has been to really, for both public health, governments, society, and individuals, to try and reduce those contacts and limit them to the essential as much as possible.
Speaker 6: (39:37)
Thank you, do you want to follow-up?
Speaker 7: (39:40)
Thank you, doctor. And I just wanted to ask about the impact of postponed surgeries, The Globe and Mail reported today on kids that will have lifelong problems after missing their window for surgery and outgrowing the time that they needed help. I’m just wondering if sac has done any planning exercise, or issued any guidance that mitigate the impact of postponed surgeries, or how to prioritize things? And if you could also explain if that’s for kids, or just general delete surgeries.
Dr. Tam: (40:09)
I think again the health system is in the purview of the provinces and territories. But I think the number of cases have increased to the extent that a number of hospitals and a number of municipalities as now scaling back on elective surgeries, so the non-urgent medical procedures or admissions, which clearly is an extremely troubling indicator. And which is again, why we have to get the number of cases under control, because it can have significant longer-term impacts.
Dr. Tam: (40:52)
But it is, I think, within the realms of the discussion, frequent discussion, I think with the deputy ministers and the ministers of health in terms of the health system capacity piece. And from a public health perspective, we’ve been really given the huge responsibility to get transmission down so that it doesn’t impact the healthcare system. So I think that’s the sort of collective challenge that we have right now.
Speaker 6: (41:28)
Thank you, Dr. Tam, we’ll now turn to the room [inaudible 00:03: 30]? Question from Radio Canada, Dr. Njoo.
Speaker 7: (41:36)
There’s an Italian study that came out today saying that the coronavirus was spread in China more than we thought as early as October, according to a new Italian study. Are you aware of this study? Is it possible that COVID was silently spreading throughout since the beginning of this pandemic? Thank you for the answer.
Howard Njoo: (42:04)
Thank you for the question. I’m not aware of the details of that study. Now certainly there are always studies and facts that evolve over time, and we’re concerned with what’s happening right now.
Howard Njoo: (42:22)
Now, other things that have happened are very… it’s interesting to know those things, but they’re not always pertinent to what needs to be done now. We’ve highlighted this a number of times. Everybody has to continue to uphold public health measures.
Howard Njoo: (42:47)
And it’s tiresome. I know everyone’s tired. These are three or four things we have to do, wearing a mask, social distancing, washing surfaces, and I don’t know what else to say. Washing hands, we keep highlighting the importance of those.
Howard Njoo: (43:10)
What I can say is that it takes everybody working together. It’s not just the government and public health authorities. I can add to what Dr. Tam said, now the health care systems, and the public health systems are just on the verge of being overwhelmed.
Howard Njoo: (43:32)
In the spring the number of contacts with a confirmed case was about five or six because everybody was staying home. Now we’re up to 30 or 50 contacts. And the principle of contact tracing is the same today as it was before, but it’s more difficult for workers on the ground to do proper contact tracing, because there are too many contacts happening between people to do the tracing.
Howard Njoo: (44:07)
So it’s really important that as of today, everybody think about this and limit the number of contacts you have with others. We hope that we’ll see the positive effects of this in a few weeks.
Speaker 6: (44:22)
Follow up question.
Speaker 7: (44:24)
I hear what you’re saying. And we talk a lot about schools and that they should be closed before Christmas. The health system sufficient, are the decisions being made properly? For example, the ones dealing with surgery, we say that that all has to do with provinces, but right now, today, rather than repeating the importance of washing hands, and stop seeing people, what can the federal government, or the Public Health Agency of Canada do more than you’re doing right now, that would be useful for flattening the curve, rather than repeating what’s already been said?
Speaker 6: (44:59)
Howard Njoo: (45:00)
Thank you for the question. As the prime minister highlighted, the federal government is always willing to support provinces and territories. And Dr. Tam and I always talk about things from the public health perspective. We talk with immunologists, we have expertise in laboratories to help support the provinces and territories as things evolve. But apart from that, I think it’s also very important to share information on best practices with the provinces and territories between colleagues. Right after this press briefing, we are going to attend our 100th meeting on this.
Howard Njoo: (45:52)
I think the first one was January 28th. And so we keep discussing current issues with our peers, with our counterparts. Of course, things are different in each province and territory, but the main principles are around science. What are the next steps that need to be implemented? Always in the context of the provinces and territories; I think that’s an important role for the federal government.
Speaker 6: (46:19)
Thank you, Dr. New.
Tonda M.: (46:20)
Dr. Tam, can you talk to me about what role the military can play, not only in vaccine delivery, but in this, what you call extremely troubling time, where we’re in a bad second wave? Is there planning under underway for the military to provide, for example, field hospital capacity? That would relieve some of the pressures you’ve talked about, where people are canceling surgeries and whatnot.
Dr. Tam: (46:48)
So the pandemic response is a multi-department response of which the Canadian Forces, the military has been an integral partner. I think it is really important that we do everything to not get to a point where the military has to be redeployed, for example, the long-term care facilities. But of course, people can get ready to do that.
Dr. Tam: (47:15)
We’ve engaged the Canadian Red Cross for the purposes of building up capacities, those are more civilian focus, so that you don’t get there, because that’s not what the military was created for, is to do the backstop for long-term care facilities. So we have to do everything to not have them get there.
Dr. Tam: (47:35)
But they are involved in some of… they are incredible logisticians and have expertise in so many aspects of the logistics side of the response. And so I think with the vaccine distribution, that kind of expertise is really paramount. And then we we’ve been obviously working with that kind of expertise for some time in developing the logistics plans, and the implementation plans.
Dr. Tam: (48:04)
And particularly at the beginning of any vaccine implementation with ultra-cold supply chains, and that type of thing, is where they are extremely valuable.
Dr. Tam: (48:19)
Obviously there may be other needs through which the provinces will have to go through the channels, but a lot of it might be to deal with logistics, transportation, and those aspects.
Dr. Tam: (48:34)
But it’s really, really important that we don’t get to a point where you are now spilling over into additional hospital or wings or something like that. Yes, we do have those kinds of capacities, but it’s not limitless, and we should not get there. That is not a good place to be. But the different parts of the military are incredible partners right now.
Speaker 6: (49:01)
Tonda M.: (49:02)
So I understand that answer, and correct me if I’m wrong, I understand you to say then that the Red Cross is looking at civilian capacity to augment hospitals, but there is no plan for the military to stand up field hospitals [inaudible 00:49:16]. If I’m wrong on that, you can correct me.
Tonda M.: (49:19)
But my second question is more to, around that ultra-cold storage and the needs, the ultra-cold storage chain you need, I understand from looking at things that it’s only the one vaccine that requires that. The others require either the minus 20, or the two to eight degree range, right?
Tonda M.: (49:39)
Last night, the minister said that 33.5 million doses, you’ve made provisions to contract for the storage of that much vaccine. Can you tell me more about that? Is all of [inaudible 00:49:57] cold? Is some of it? Is none of it? Who’s got the contract? That’s the kind of thing I’m looking for.
Dr. Tam: (50:01)
I’m not in that field of experience right now, there are implementation teams, and public PSVC, obviously we can sort of get back to. But right now, what is happening is that all provinces are working on their specific sites for delivering where they want the vaccine to be deployed to.
Dr. Tam: (50:31)
And they will have those plans, which then informs the exact support and distribution. Right now we’re just getting those things ready so that they can be situated in the area where the ultra cold vaccine will be deployed. And so that’s the bottom line.
Dr. Tam: (50:55)
And I think as in all aspects of the pandemic vaccine response, there’s contingencies built in, extra capacities, so that that can be accommodated. Because we do not know how many vaccines are going to be successful. We now know of two with some promising preliminary announcements.
Dr. Tam: (51:20)
We haven’t seen the data, but at least it sounds good. We haven’t heard from the other vaccine as yet. So you got to prepare for all eventualities that maybe all seven vaccines would there be deployed over time. But it does become easier over time when the fridge-stable vaccines come into play, where one expects that the need for federal support will gradually be more left to the provinces and territories. But we are really important at the initial implementation stage, with these more challenging vaccine logistics. But I do know that yes, absolutely sufficient freezers are being purchased. Some are already… we’ve mapped out the ones that are already in Canada, and the additional ones that might be needed.
Tonda M.: (52:17)
[inaudible 00:52:17] is that right?
Speaker 6: (52:20)
Dr. Tam: (52:20)
Tonda M.: (52:20)
You didn’t correct me on the military thing.
Dr. Tam: (52:26)
So field hospitals, I think again, you don’t want to get there, and they may be need to transfer people from one site to another site, there’s different plans. But if there are additional hospital requirements, it can be staffed in different ways. And I’m sure that if there was a request to the military, it can be considered, but that’s not where you want to go.
Howard Njoo: (52:50)
And [inaudible 00:14:50], maybe just to add to Dr. Tam’s answer about the vaccine and the number of doses that I think our minister referred to in terms of total number that we have advanced purchase agreements, I think it’s a bit of a moving target. But one thing I think we can say is that the number of doses in terms of the initial shipment won’t be all at once, we recognize that.
Howard Njoo: (53:12)
It will come in different batches. And I think one of the things that we’re planning for as well is that with that first shipment, whenever it does come, hopefully sometime early in the new year, that we have the plan laid out with the provinces and territories, the logistics in terms of who could or should receive that first shipment of vaccines, whatever those successful vaccines are.
Howard Njoo: (53:34)
And I think as you know, we’ve had the NACI statement come out in terms of the priority groups. So there’s lots of discussions and work going on behind the scenes. And certainly I think what we’re looking towards is that as hopefully these two vaccines get approved, because we still have to obviously look at the clinical data, the clinical trials, make sure that our regulatory colleagues are comfortable and approve them. And the other vaccines, hopefully if they also get approved and get rolled out later in the year, certainly we’re looking at hopefully covering the vast majority of the Canadian population quote by the end of next year.
Howard Njoo: (54:11)
But like I say, this is something that’s happening in real time. And certainly there will be adjustments made as we move along. Thanks.
Speaker 6: (54:17)
Thank you, Dr. Njoo. Mia?
Mia Rabson: (54:20)
Good afternoon. Mia Rabson, from the Canadian Press. Dr. Tam, usually by this time there’s hundreds of people that have been diagnosed with influenza. And this year, the latest report says we’ve had 17, which seems like a drastic drop. Can you talk a little bit about how this is helping the hospitals, which already seem overwhelmed, and what we can expect going forward? Is the flu season really going to be non-existent now, do we know that yet?
Dr. Tam: (54:44)
I don’t like to focus too early, but obviously right now the influenza activity… this would be the beginning of our usual flu season, and we have an extraordinary low number of influenza cases, despite testing at a higher rate than what we normally do. So that’s a pretty good sign that the hygienic and public health measures we’ve implemented for COVID-19 is obviously having an impact.
Dr. Tam: (55:14)
Also, as everybody’s heard, there’s a phenomenal uptake in the influenza vaccination programs. So that’s also going to add another layer of protection, which is absolutely essential right now, because you cannot afford to have influenza cases coming in and taking up emergency room and hospital bed capacity.
Dr. Tam: (55:35)
So that’s definitely, and thank everybody who worked on influenza, would have had I think a very important impact on reducing healthcare system needs. So I think definitely looking good at this point.
Mia Rabson: (55:59)
And I’m also wondering, the World Junior Hockey Championships, I believe are scheduled for Alberta later this year. I’m just wondering if you can talk about the clearances that have been given, what kind of clearances, if they’ve been given a clearance, and what the plan is for that?
Howard Njoo: (56:13)
Thank you for the question. It’s Dr. Njoo. I will say that to myself and others, we’ve been engaged in ongoing discussion with Hockey Canada, and all the relevant partners, including as well public health officials from the province of Alberta. I think the proposals on what’s been put forward to us at the present time, it looks very promising. It looks very good.
Howard Njoo: (56:37)
Certainly what we’ve seen is that the model they’re going to be intending to use is similar to the bubble concept that’s been used successfully for the NHL playoffs, and the NBA as well. So that’s certainly is a good start. And certainly the lessons learned, the experience that obviously Alberta had, because they had one of the hub cities for the NHL playoffs, that will certainly serve them in good stead. So at this point, obviously we’re still looking at the-
Dr. Howard Njoo: (57:03)
… instead. So at this point, obviously we’re still looking at the proposals, but I can say that from a technical, public health point of view, it looks good. The only thing that I would add to that though, and everyone involved is, I think, appreciative of the fact, is that between now and December, it’s supposed to happen during the holiday season, lots can happen, right? And people recognize that there’s still that sort of unknown factor in terms of what the situation will be like in Canada at that point in time. Thanks.
Speaker 9: (57:31)
Thanks, Dr. Njoo. Annie?
Hi there. It’s Annie with CTV National News. My question is for both of you. Back in March, you projected that anywhere from 11,000 to 22,000 people would die of COVID-19 over the entire epidemic. We are just about nine months into this and already more than 11,000 Canadians have died of COVID-19. What is behind this massive increase in the death projections? It’s far higher than initially projected just nine months ago.
Dr. Tam: (57:59)
Well, I think in terms of scenarios there were, if people remember, this was a green curves and different types of attack rates. So there were different projections based on different types of attack rates in Canada. So obviously, if we keep to the low end, we will see less serious impacts. So those are different ranges of protections. So I’m just trying to recall which session you’re referring to. But obviously, in the initial wave, there was a massive impact on our long-term care facilities, which really tragically resulted in a over 80% or thereabouts of the deaths at the time. Which is why in this resurgence, we must do everything to reduce that impact.
Dr. Tam: (58:53)
And I think at the beginning of this resurgence we said, “It’s in younger adults, but it’s going to spill into other high- risk groups,” which is what we’re seeing right now. This is the time to really reduce the transmission and make sure long-term care have everything they need to protect our most vulnerable citizens. So we’re monitor the deaths very carefully. Right now, they’re increasing quite steadily, but they are a lagging indicator. So we’ve now seen a number of long-term care outbreaks. Some of them at the beginning were quite small. Now you’re getting larger ones, which means in a few weeks time or in the coming days, we might sadly see more deaths. So protecting the most vulnerable is the key to keeping the deaths low. So what that’s telling, whenever the projections are beyond the bounds of the confidence interval, it’s telling me that it’s a signal that we deviated from that path and that we need to double down right now on our measures.
Well, that initial projection of 11,000 to 22,000 was with strong epidemic public health controls. So does that indicate to you that we need more stronger measures, that we didn’t hit that green curve that everyone was hoping for initially? And do you think that right now, as you were mentioning, because deaths are rising, that lockdowns in specific regions would be useful? It seems like the constant messaging of wash your hands, wear a mask, stay six feet apart isn’t working in some places.
Dr. Tam: (01:00:36)
Well, reducing the amount of contact … We I think about to have another modeling session on Friday if all is going as planned. I’m not saying that we’ve gone off the green curve, there’s ranges of protections for that. And in fact, several logic analysis will be repeated, but suggest that the amount of infection in our community was actually quite low. So we were quite successful in that first wave and we can be successful again if we rapidly get the resurgence under control. So we’ve done it the first time, we’ve got even more tools now, we should be able to do this. And protecting the vulnerable settings is really key.
Dr. Tam: (01:01:16)
So I think, as I said today, rapid suppression of the current curve is important. Individual actions are important, but insufficient, which is why society, governments are enacting measures to reduce gathering size and limit certain settings right now. So when transmission is high, the key is to reduce contact through these means. When the numbers get lower, you have to focus on stopping transmission in what we call super spreading sort of environments, and really get in there and deal with every spark. Right now, you can’t deal with every spark. There’s too many, too much transmission. So you got to get the transmission down first.
Dr. Tam: (01:02:04)
During this time, it’s not a matter of looking at the number of cases going down and then releasing those measures. During this time, it’s the time to prepare so that you don’t get another similar re-escalation. So making sure the testing, contact tracing, isolation, protecting those vulnerable settings have to be in place. So you can’t just track those numbers as indicators, you got to track the health system and public health system capacity. One of the most concerning elements, I think, going into the winter is that the colder weather driving people indoors. But the other elements most concerning is the exhaustion of the Health Human Resources, which is why we all have to do everything we can so that that system can be preserved.
Dr. Howard Njoo: (01:02:55)
It’s Dr. Njoo. Maybe I’ll just add to Dr. Tam said. It’s interesting, when you mentioned about the modeling projections, I think our first modeling sort of presentation was back in April. And so I think at that time, I think, to be honest, this is maybe a personal reflection, we were looking at sort of a very technical point of view, what needs to be done, the attack rate, and projections, and so on and so forth.
Dr. Howard Njoo: (01:03:17)
One of the things I’ve certainly learned is that maybe one thing we didn’t take into account and it’s something we’re learning about is sort of the human behavioral aspect and the fact we’re all suffering from COVID fatigue. We’ve been at this for many months. And so things which made sense and everyone bought into, wearing a face mask, physical distancing, et cetera, back in April, May, we start letting go in the summer. Now, we’re having that second wave and it’s tough. People get it, people understand that we’re going to go indoors and there’s a higher risk in terms of our close settings of being exposed. But how do we get people to understand and appreciate that the situation now is just as severe, if not maybe even worse compared to what we endured in the springtime? So that, to me, is, I think, a big learning in terms of the social and behavioral aspect of this.
Dr. Howard Njoo: (01:04:04)
Other than that, as Dr. Tam mentioned, I would say that the lockdown aspect is certainly something that there’s a certain appeal to it, but certainly I think we recognize that there are other severe consequences, both social, economic, and so on. And so that has to be taken into account rather than just “What are the public health effects of a reduction in transmission because of lockdowns?” The other part also is, as we’ve mentioned several times, is that it’s not going to be sort of governments alone or public health, it really is up to each and every one of us as Canadians to understand, recognize, and, as they say, do our part to limit our contacts and reduce transmission.
Dr. Howard Njoo: (01:04:44)
And then the other aspect that’s certainly within public health that we’re focused on is ensuring to the best extent we can support provinces and territories is in what we call sort of the testing, tracing, and isolation. As we mentioned earlier today, that’s still a cornerstone in terms of, at least from a public health perspective, controlling transmission. And unfortunately, in some jurisdictions, they’re getting overwhelmed, a bit overloaded, in terms of the number of contacts that they follow-up and so on. So that’s something I think that hopefully with all of these things put together, we’ll get a better sort of handle on and be able to move forward on that. Thank you.
Speaker 9: (01:05:22)
Thank you, Dr. Njoo. Dr. Tam, it is quarter two now. So if you do need to depart for your meeting, I will take the last two questions with Dr. Njoo. Tom, over to you.
Hi. Just wondering, the prime minister was talking in his opening remarks about Pfizer and Moderna submitting their vaccines for approval by Health Canada. I’m just trying to find out what information you’ve seen so far from the companies and typically what more you’d need to see before you approve these vaccines.
Dr. Howard Njoo: (01:05:51)
It’s Dr. Njoo. I can take that question. It wouldn’t be ourselves. As I said, certainly the data and the information that will be submitted by the companies or has been submitted by the companies would go to our colleagues who are obviously the experts in terms of the regulatory system here in Canada. I think certainly what we’ve seen from their press releases is a very high level of preliminary stuff. Oh yes, 90% effectiveness. But when you get into the details, that’s what the regulators will be looking for. Looking at the data varies, sort of stratifies by age. Which of the people enrolled in the study? Who became infected, who didn’t by age group. What were the types of symptoms? Were they severe? Et cetera, and so on. Looking also at adverse events, looking at the diversity, because depending on sort of the vaccine and the populations, we do recognize that sometimes there are some genetic differences as well among different types of populations.
Dr. Howard Njoo: (01:06:49)
So all of that very detailed, stratified analysis in terms of the data that would be submitted is what the regulator is going to be looking for in terms of finally, I think, making a determination. And at the end of the day, ensuring that the vaccines are both sort of safe, as well as effective for Canadians.
Did I hear you say, Dr. Njoo, that you were hoping to cover the majority of the Canadian population by the end of next year in terms of getting them vaccinated by then? Is that the time frame you’re looking at?
Dr. Howard Njoo: (01:07:17)
Well, that’s certainly, I think, the optimistic outlook. Because with the first two vaccines, actually in Canada, we have agreements for seven vaccine candidates. The furthest along the pipeline are the two, the Pfizer and the Moderna product, because they’re finishing off what we call the phase three trials. And so that information we submit in terms of a sort of a rolling submission. And if all goes well and the data looks good and our regulators approve the vaccines, then we anticipate receiving the doses sometime, as they say, in the first quarter of next year. So hopefully January, February. And we would start to vaccinate. I would think obviously we won’t get all the vaccine at the same time. And so we’ve been looking at sort of who are the priority populations? And that’s certainly, I think, a matter of public record with our NACI recommendation and so on.
Dr. Howard Njoo: (01:08:08)
However, the other vaccine candidates, which in some ways would be easier from a logistical point of view to vaccinate the Canadian population because they are more traditional, at least in terms of the cold chain between being kept between two and eight degrees centigrade, they’re also in various stages. I think, for example, that the Canadian based company, Medicago, I think they’re finishing off phase one or they’re about to enter phase two, and so on. And so if all goes well, I think optimistically we’ll have a suite of vaccines available. And if we get delivery of those vaccines, I certainly can anticipate that as the year goes on, that more and more Canadians, as these vaccines become available and get shipped out, will be able to be vaccinated and have a large part of the population covered by the end of next year.
Speaker 8: (01:08:55)
Howard Njoo: (01:09:03)
Question inaudible to the interpreter. Response, “Yes. We’ve received the last information about the promising vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer. And if everything goes well, if the validation occurs with our regulators, we hope to receive the vaccines in January or February. But of course, we’re not going to receive all the doses at the same time. And so we’re going to have sequencing in place for priority vaccination. And we’ll have to look at vulnerable populations in the healthcare system as well. So there are a number of companies, other vaccines, even Medicago based in Quebec. While they are maybe not as advanced, they’re doing phase one trials. But if all goes well with the other vaccines and the approbation process, we could have a choice of different vaccines. And we hope to vaccinate a large proportion of the Canadian population by the end of next year.
Speaker 9: (01:10:23)
Thank you, Dr. Njoo. We’ll take the final question from Abigail.
Abigail Bimman: (01:10:25)
Hi. Abigail Bimman, GlobalNews. Dr. Njoo, I’m wondering from your perspective, do you think another national lockdown is inevitable?
Dr. Howard Njoo: (01:10:35)
It’s interesting, what the question in terms of what we mean by national lockdown. I think that Canada’s a big country. And even now, I would say that certain parts of the country, I think the best example is the Atlantic provinces, the Atlantic bubble. They’re doing well. Hopefully they stay that way in terms of the measures they put in place. And so I can’t foresee “a lockdown” being applied to the Atlantic provinces as well as in the north. Up to now, unfortunately with what’s happening, none of it’s a different story, but with the Yukon and Northwest territories, they’ve been essentially keeping COVID-19 sort of well controlled with a sort of limited number of cases. And so I think that what they’re doing is fine and they should continue in that vein.
Dr. Howard Njoo: (01:11:20)
In terms of lockdowns, certainly my perspective is that it’s best done and managed, as they say, at a “local or provincial level.” For example, in the case, Nunavut, based on the recent sort of explosion of cases, if I can call it, it’s certainly very concerning. And based on the infrastructure, some of the communities have overcrowded housing situations and so on. Certainly I think it was a decision well-made by the chief medical officer of health there to put restrictions on lockdown and sort of limiting travel between the communities to really try and put a clamp down for the next two weeks. That situation in Nunavut is certainly different, I would say, compared to, let’s say, a province like British Columbia or even Ontario and Quebec. And even in a province like Quebec and Ontario, they have different situations, I would say, in the urban areas compared to some of the rural areas.
Dr. Howard Njoo: (01:12:15)
And so I think at the end of the day, it really comes down, as we’ve always said, to sort of the local circumstance. I think local officials, based on their best understanding of the data, the epidemiology, the kind of drivers that are contributing community transmission. Maybe in one jurisdiction, it’s more, let’s say, private parties. Maybe in another jurisdiction, it’s more focused on what’s happening in some commercial establishment. And so I think, at this point, we’re certainly having very good conversations, discussions with our counterparts in the provinces and territories. And we certainly see that they would continue in terms of what they see is best for their specific jurisdictions. Thanks.
Abigail Bimman: (01:12:57)
And I hear what you’re saying in terms of it being a local decision. I’m still wondering if you have a general view on closing schools. And when you said yourself that it’s hard to know what you mean by the definition of a national lockdown. In general, do you think it’s a good idea if warranted to close schools?
Dr. Howard Njoo: (01:13:15)
Okay. Well, I have a personal view in terms of schools. I would say that, first of all, I think I’ve mentioned several times that what’s happening in schools is certainly a reflection of what’s happening in the “community” around there, not sort of working in isolation. And so if there’s a lot of community transmission, then certainly it’s anticipated that you would get a higher risk of having cases pop up in schools. And I think that we’ve seen that’s been the case. I think to date, for the most part, based on our discussions and the data we’ve seen from the provinces and territories, there have been cases identified in schools and some “smaller school outbreaks.” But certainly we haven’t seen to date large-scale school outbreaks in which has ongoing continuing transmission that also “spills out” to a great extent in the larger community.
Dr. Howard Njoo: (01:14:01)
And so I think the reason schools were open in the first place, and I think why it’s so important to have them stay open is that we know that for the wellbeing of children. And it goes beyond just sort of the physical, but also the social, mental wellbeing that it’s important for kids to go back to school. We also know that it’s important for parents and for society at large. Many parents have to work. And certainly, what are you going to do with the kids if they’re not in school and you have a job that requires you to be out of the home?
Dr. Howard Njoo: (01:14:31)
So for lots of reasons, I think it’s important to do the best we can to maintain our schools open. And I think that’s what’s been done in large part in the provinces and territories. And so I would say that there are lots of other things I would probably look at first in terms of what we can do in various types of restrictions or limitations of activities. But certainly from my perspective anyway, I would say that the schools are certainly be very, very low on the list and certainly a high priority to keep open as much as it’s feasible and possible.
Speaker 9: (01:15:04)
Thank you, Dr. Njoo. That concludes today’s press conference. Merci.