Oct 5, 2020
Justin Trudeau October 5 COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a press conference on October 5 to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and financial support for hot spots. Read the full transcript of his speech here.
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Justin Trudeau: (00:00)
… And if you haven’t already, download the COVID Alert app now, which is another way of keeping yourself and others safe. Seven provinces have brought the app fully online and we’re expecting more news on this later today, COVID Alert is free and protects your privacy. So download it from Google Play or the App Store. The more people who sign up, the more powerful this tool will become. Already in Ontario, over 600 people have registered a positive result, which automatically notified thousands of people they came into contact with. Now is the time for all of us to use the app.
Throughout the country, COVID-19 cases have increased. I would ask you to please continue to wear your mask, maintain physical distancing and wash your hands. We repeated often, I know, but it’s because these small things can make a big difference. And if you haven’t already done so, download the free COVID Alert app from the App Store or from Google Play. Seven provinces are using it and the Quebec government will be making an announcement soon.
Our government’s main priority is everyone’s safety. We have procured over 2 billion PPEs for Canadians. Over the last month, our government has sent tens of thousands of equipment to the provinces and territories, whether it be gowns, face shields, or masks. Regarding swabs, we sent them to the provinces and territories, but we also have two Canadian companies who are authorized to print swabs with 3D printers.
Regarding vaccines, last week, Health Canada received its first request to authorize AstraZeneca, the vaccine, and we will have access to it. This is what we are doing to make sure that Canada has access to a vaccine as quickly as possible.
Justin Trudeau: (02:18)
Our government will continue doing everything we can to support people through this crisis, whatever it takes, as long as it takes. Yesterday, I had a very productive call with Mayor Tory of Toronto about addressing the challenges facing Canada’s largest city. Later today, I’ll be speaking with Mayor Watson from Ottawa and Mayor Brown from Brampton.
I will also soon be discussing with Mayor Plante of Quebec and the mayor of Quebec City.
Justin Trudeau: (02:46)
Beating this virus is team Canada effort and we’re here for Canadians right across the country. We’ve created the COVID Testing Assistance Response Team to quickly deploy across Canada because the federal government stands ready to help. Federal lab space is also providing surge support on processing of tests, including for Ontario, for a thousand tests a day and additional federal labs will be added. On contact tracing, we have agreements in place with Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta with more to come for other provinces and territories. There are 500 full-time contact tracers provided for Ontario, including 30 tracers specifically for Ottawa. At the same time, we’re moving forward with programs that go directly to Canadians. As of this morning, applications for the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit are open. These two programs are for Canadians not covered at work if they get COVID-19, or if their kids or parents get it and they have to take care of them. If you need this support, go to the CRA’s My Account through canada.ca or call +1 800- 959-2019, or +1 800-959-2041.
Justin Trudeau: (04:12)
Next week, applications will also open for the Canada Recovery Benefit to support people who are directly affected by COVID-19, but can’t access EI. These three new programs, the recovery benefit, the sickness benefit and the caregiving benefit are there for you.
Since this morning, applications for the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit and the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, these applications are open. If you need this assistance, please consult the CRA website more and go into My Account or dial +1 800-959-2019, or +1 800-959-2041. Next week, the process will be open for the Canada Recovery Benefit. These three benefits are there to help you.
Justin Trudeau: (05:17)
This fall is turning out to be pretty challenging for a lot of Canadians, including for young people. For students, I know this isn’t the Thanksgiving, let alone the year, that you had hoped for. But even if things are different this long weekend, I hope you still take some time, probably online with loved ones. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, or if you’re struggling, reach out, you have a whole network of family, friends, teachers, that’s there for you. I know we’re going through really tough times right now, everyone is, but we need you, your strength, your resilience, your vision for the future, we will continue to be for you, and you got this.
On this note, I would like to highlight Teachers Day [inaudible 00:06:07] Teachers Day, to all teachers and educators throughout the country, I would like to say, thank you. It is not easy, and the situation is far from ideal, but you are continuing to do incredible work. Every day you are dedicated and you are making a huge difference in people’s lives. Later today, we’ll be announcing the names of the 71 exceptional educators throughout the country who will receive Prime Minister’s Award for Excellency in Education. These are people who believe in our children and in doing so are contributing to the creation of a future that is better for all of us.
Justin Trudeau: (06:47)
As someone who’s spent time at the front of a classroom, I know just how important teaching can be. Of course, even in regular times, the job is not without its challenges and right now teachers are facing circumstances that none of us could ever have predicted. So to teachers and educators across the country, thank you for everything you do. Not only are you navigating health rules and online learning, you’re guiding young people through an incredibly difficult and challenging new world. You’re there for our kids and know that our government will be there for you.
Justin Trudeau: (07:23)
We created the $2 billion Safe Return to Class Fund to keep you and your students safe. For Edmonton public schools, this money has helped with rapid testing to protect staff and students. For schools in London, Ontario, it has meant buying more PPE and hiring additional teachers, and right across the country, this investment is going towards keeping all of our classrooms healthy.
As we did with the Safe Return to Class Fund, we will continue to find other means to ensure the safety of all Canadians. Flattening the curves, whether it be in schools or in workplaces is our priority for the next weeks.
Justin Trudeau: (08:06)
And finally, I want to let Canadians know that I’ve asked the foreign minister to travel to Europe to discuss with our allies the developments in Eastern Europe and the caucuses, particularly in the Nagorno-Karabakh. Thank you very much. Dr. Tam.
Speaker 1: (08:24)
Dr. Theresa Tam: (08:24)
There have been 166,156 cases of COVID-19 in Canada, including 9,481 deaths. Laboratories across Canada continue to test at a high rate with an average of over 71,000 people tested daily last week and 1.7% of these testing positive. National daily case counts continue to increase steeply with an average of more than 1800 new cases being reported daily during the most recent seven days. New cases in Ontario and Quebec account for over 80% of the cases reported nationally over this time period. The number of COVID-19 cases in hospital and the number of deaths reported daily have also increased. An average of 585 individuals with COVID-19 were in Canadian hospitals on any given day and 14 deaths were reported daily over the past week.
Dr. Theresa Tam: (09:25)
No matter the trajectory within your jurisdiction, we must all remain vigilant and committed to protect ourselves and those we care about. The accelerated spread in parts of Quebec and Ontario reminds us how rapidly this virus can take hold. When case counts and the number of individuals they may have exposed are high, this place has pressure on all parts of the public health response, including our labs and contact tracers.
Dr. Theresa Tam: (09:52)
Public health authorities across the country are continuing to increase their testing and tracing capacity, but these resources have limits. At a certain point, reinstating some community-based public health measures, as we’ve observed in parts of Ontario and Quebec, is required to bring COVID 19 back down to manageable levels.
Dr. Theresa Tam: (10:11)
Public health cannot do this alone, and the fact that people can spread COVID-19 before they show symptoms, so we can’t tell who may be infectious or not. We must all keep our distance and keep our number of close contact low. This will help prevent spread and make it easier for public health authorities to identify and quarantine contacts if you do contract COVID-19.
Dr. Theresa Tam: (10:36)
We must also redouble our efforts to follow the other public health measures we know to be effective, regardless of where in the country we live, wash your hands frequently, wear a non-medical mask or face covering where distancing is difficult, and stay home and self isolate if you experience any symptoms, even mild ones.
Dr. Theresa Tam: (10:55)
While right now we are on the wrong trajectory in some parts of the country, if we all commit to doing our part to reduce the spread of the virus, I’m confident we can right the ship and plank the curve again and we can do this together.
Dr. Theresa Tam: (11:10)
I just want to end by giving a shout out to Professor Michael Houghton at the University of Alberta, who is today, with his colleagues, jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for the discovery of the hepatitis C virus. Of course, the discovery of this virus is extremely important now for the discovery on treatments and other ways of managing hepatitis C. Thank you.
Speaker 2: (11:38)
Hello everyone, there have been 166,156 cases of COVID-19 in Canada, including 9,481 deaths. Laboratories across Canada continue to test at a high rate with an average of over 71,000 people tested daily last week and 1.7% of these testing positive. National daily counts continue to increase steeply with an average of more than 1800 new cases being reported daily during the most recent seven days. New cases in Ontario and Quebec account for over 80% of the cases reported nationally over this time period. The number of COVID-19 cases in hospital and the number of deaths reported daily have also increased. An average of 585 individuals with COVID-19 were in Canadian hospitals on any given day and 14 deaths were reported daily over the past week.
Speaker 2: (12:47)
No matter the trajectory within your jurisdiction, we must all remain vigilant and committed to protect ourselves and those we care about. The accelerated spread in parts of Quebec and Ontario, remind us how rapidly this virus can take hold. When case counts and the number of individuals that may have been exposed are high, this puts pressure on all parts of the public health response, including our labs and contact tracers.
Speaker 2: (13:22)
Public health authorities across the country are continuing to increase their testing and tracing capacity, but these resources have limits. At a certain point, reinstating some community-based public health measures, as we’ve observed in parts of Ontario and Quebec, is required to bring COVID-19 back down to manageable levels.
Speaker 2: (13:49)
Public health cannot do this alone. Infected people can spread COVID-19 before they show symptoms so we can’t tell who may be infectious or not. We must …
… Tell know who may be infectious or not. We must all keep our distance and keep our number of close contacts low. This will help to prevent spread and make it easier for public health authorities to identify and quarantine your contacts if you do contract COVID-19. We must also redouble our efforts to follow the other public health measures we know to be effective, regardless of where in the country we live. Wash your hands frequently, wear a non-medical mask or face covering where distancing is difficult, and stay home and self-isolate if you experience any symptoms, even mild ones. While right now we’re on the wrong trajectory in some parts of the country, if we all commit to doing our part to reduce the spread of the virus, we are confident that we can right the ship and plank the curve again. We can do this together. Thank you.
Finally, with Dr. Tam, I would also like to congratulate Dr. Michael Holton from the University of Alberta and his colleagues for being awarded the Nobel Prize for the discovery of Hepatitis C. This is an important step because now we’re on the path to finding treatment and perhaps even a vaccine against Hep C. Thank you.
Thank you, Dr. Njoo.
Speaker 3: (15:34)
We have a 20-minute question period for the prime minister today, we will start with the front and head through the room. Doctors will be available to answer your question afterward.
Speaker 3: (15:41)
First question, operator, please.
Thank you, Merci. First question, Kristy Kirkup, Globe and Mail. Line open.
Kristy Kirkup: (15:59)
Good afternoon, Prime Minister. After months of saying it’s too dangerous to help Canadians stranded in Syria, your government is helping an orphaned Canadian girl come home. We’re wondering about the remaining 40 or so Canadians, half of which are children, will you help them?
Justin Trudeau: (16:17)
I think we have to recognize that this particular situation was an exceptional case of an orphan who no longer had any close family, and that was why we have worked very hard over the past months to bring her to Canada. Obviously, however, this is a situation where we’re trying to say as little as possible about it, to respect her and her family’s privacy as they adjust to being back in Canada.
Speaker 4: (16:45)
Justin Trudeau: (16:45)
And to repeat it in French: This situation is exceptional because the individual in question was orphaned, lost her parents, and we’ve been working for weeks in order to bring her back to Canada and to help her be back with her family and to protect her privacy. We will not give too many details so that this young girl can have a normal life, and I will not comment further.
Kristy Kirkup: (17:25)
Just on another matter, Prime Minister, what have you told the premiers about the need to address systemic racism in provincial healthcare systems? Have you considered making any stipulations in the federal health transfer agreements on this matter?
Justin Trudeau: (17:40)
As a government, we’ve been very, very clear from the beginning that systemic racism exists and is a problem right across the country, in all of our institutions, and we all must do more to address it, to respond to it, to counter it and to make sure that every Canadian is treated properly by all of our institutions. Shortly after the most recent round of issues came up in the spring, we expressed in a joint statement by all premiers and all first ministers that we needed to do more. We continue to work hard on this, both with provinces and territories and on our own as a federal government. We will continue to make sure that we are fighting systemic racism and discrimination every step of the way, in all of our institutions, because no Canadian should be undergoing what far too many Canadians who are racialized or indigenous live through on a daily basis.
Speaker 3: (18:43)
Thank you, operator. Next question.
Thank you. Merci.
Question from [French 00:04:52].
Yes, hello, Mr. Trudeau. I would like to come back to my colleagues question, with bringing Amira back, you have shown that it is possible to repatriate Canadians. We believe that there are still 46 of them stuck over there. A simple question: Are you going to repatriate others?
Answer: This was an exceptional circumstance. The young girl had lost both her parents, she was orphaned and she had family in Canada, so we’ve been working for months and months to find a way to bring her home. There are no other operations of the sort ongoing.
Question: Can I ask you why? Because some say that you could repatriate these other people and have a hearing for them.
Answer: Again, this was an exceptional circumstance. A young orphan girl lost her parents. We brought her back to her family, but it took months of planning and hard work by different people in different departments in Canada in order to have a such a happy ending, but we don’t have a plan to do that for others.
Speaker 3: (20:23)
Thank you, operator.
Last question on the phone, operator.
Thank you. Merci. [French 00:20:32]
Yes, hello, Mr. Trudeau. Regarding the COVID alert, how did you convince Quebec to use this app? What will it change now that Quebecers will also be able to download the app?
Answer: I will allow the government of Quebec to make their own announcement, but I would like to highlight that Canadians throughout the country can download the COVID app for free. It will be functional as soon as it is downloaded, and when working with local health authorities, it’s even stronger. The data shows that it’s useful. Over 600 people inputted a positive result in the app, which then notified thousands of people that they could have been in contact with COVID-19. This is an easy, automatic mechanism that can be added to our current systems in order to help everyone do their part in order to decrease the surge of COVID-19. I would encourage everyone in Quebec and throughout the country to download this free app, because it’s an additional way to protect ourselves, our communities, and it would allow us and our country to get through this pandemic. Hello, question, Lena?
Regarding the second wave, we’ve been warned from the very beginning that it would happen. It’s happening. You can see the numbers in Quebec that are much higher than we had anticipated after the first wave. I was wondering, do you have any idea why we’re here? Regardless of all the measures that were taken, we’re here in the second wave.
Answer: Well, Lena, I think we have to look at the rest of the world. There are second waves just about everywhere, some higher, some lower than here. It’s a reality. We live in cities, we are social beings, and it could be a challenge to prepare for this potential second wave. We worked with the provinces in spring in order to increase the number of PPE that they have, as I stated over two billion PPEs were sent. We are manufacturing more here in Canada. We also have the COVID alert app, which is a tool that people can use in order to help flatten the curve. We are also wearing masks a lot more than we did in the spring, which will also be helpful. We learned a lot and we worked with provinces, and with $19 billion for the safe restart agreement that allowed the provinces and territories to do more testing and to help the most vulnerable. We are working together in order to minimize the impact of the second wave.
Now that we’re all doing this, it’s up to Canadians throughout the country to do their part, to wear their mask, to maintain physical distancing, unfortunately, to not get together with their families and friends for Thanksgiving so that we can take control of this second wave so that we can all celebrate at Christmas. Thank you.
Questions in the room?
Glen McGregor: (24:26)
Glen McGregor, CTV News.
Glen McGregor: (24:27)
Prime Minister, I asked you this last week and you didn’t really answer, but it’s important, so I want to give you another shot here. We’re hearing more stories today about private clinics, for-profit clinics, charging people to get COVID tests so wealthier people can jump to the front of the queue. People of lesser means don’t have that opportunity. We now effectively have a two-tier testing system. Is that consistent with the Canada Health Act? Is it something you support? If not, will you do something about it?
Justin Trudeau: (24:52)
It is foundational to Canada that everyone has access to healthcare. This is something that we all know and we all know is extremely important. I have seen these reports on private clinics and testing, and I will be speaking with the health minister later today to ensure follow-up on this.
Answer repeated in French.
I think it’s very important for Canada to have an accessible universal healthcare system for all. I’ve heard talk of private clinics and I will be doing a follow-up with the minister of health in order to look at the situation.
Speaker 3: (25:36)
Tom Perry: (25:36)
Hi, Prime Minister. Tom Perry, CBC.
Tom Perry: (25:38)
There’s a report out today from the Canadian Federation of Nurses that says that Canada didn’t learn the lessons in SARS that other countries did and that put us in a worst position to fight COVID, especially when it comes to healthcare workers. What do you think about that? Should we have been better prepared?
Justin Trudeau: (25:54)
First of all, this is an opportunity to thank the nurses and the frontline health workers across the country who’ve done just extraordinary, extraordinary work in incredibly difficult circumstances. Of course, as we look back on those first months, there are a lot of things we could’ve done differently, we should have done differently, and things we are learning from. But at the same time, I will say that many of the things that we were able to do successfully in those first months of the COVID-19 pandemic were based on lessons learned from SARS. This was something that did lay out a lot of things that have improved safety and control in our Canadian institutions. But I look very much forward to digging into that nurse’s report to look at what other things we need to learn, what other things we need to do differently. I know public health regularly is in contact with all frontline health worker unions, including nurses unions, to talk about the safety of their members and how we can best help Canadians. We will continue to do that work with all our partners.
Abigail Bimman: (27:02)
Abigail Bimman, Global News. Hi, Prime Minister.
Abigail Bimman: (27:04)
I want to ask you about contact tracing. We’ve heard over and over again from your government how important it is. We heard from Minister Heidi last week about the help that’s going to the provinces, 1500 contact tracers to Ontario. Then we hear that Toronto is limiting contact tracing, Ottawa’s system is in crisis. Are we losing this battle?
Justin Trudeau: (27:23)
I think every different wave or every different situation will require a different approach and tools. Contact tracing is extremely effective in terms of tracking down cases, especially if it’s done in a very timely manner. Once you start getting to backlogs, apparently it becomes more difficult to have contact tracing be as effective, but we know it’s a key part of the success against this virus, which is why we’re continuing to deliver larger numbers of contact tracers to places like Ontario and Ottawa, 30 new contact tracers. We will continue to make sure that to all-
Justin Trudeau: (28:03)
… Tracers. We will continue to make sure that all tools are used on fighting against COVID-19, and contact tracing will continue to be an important one.
Hello, Mr. Trudeau. Christian [inaudible 00:28:17] from [inaudible 00:28:17] Canada. To follow up with what my colleague Abigail was saying, there was an increase in cases. Labs can not respond quickly enough. Some cities are no longer doing contact tracing to find people outside of their cities. Are we losing the battle? And if so, where will this bring us in the coming weeks?
Answer: As Dr. Tam said, we’re on the wrong track. Things are getting worse from day to day. When we look at today’s numbers and when we look at tomorrow’s numbers, this is based on actions taken by people a week ago. So there’s automatically a delay between what we’re doing. We need to ensure that in two weeks, in one month, that we’ll be on the right track. And in order to do so, we need to act now. People need to make responsible choices now. Stay home, if they can, if they must. Wear a mask, washing their hands, using tools such as the COVID Alert app. We need to, as individuals, as citizens, do our part. We did so even if it was difficult in the spring. We have different tools now. We have more tools in the fall than we did in the past, and we’ll be able to do what needs to be done in order to take control of this second wave. But all Canadians need to do their part. We need to be there to help each other.
Speaker 5: (29:51)
[inaudible 00:29:51] with Canadian Press. Testing is a mess. Contact tracing is falling apart. Numbers are soaring. Hospitals are in danger of being overwhelmed. These are all things that various governments including yourself and public health officials at every level said you wanted to avoid. So why were we caught flat-footed by all of this?
Justin Trudeau: (30:07)
I think we were always aware that there was a possibility of a second wave that we needed to prepare for. And we have been preparing for it. We have new tools. We have record amounts of PPE across the country. We have the COVID Alert app, which is there to help Canadians control the spread of the virus. But obviously, all of that hasn’t been enough. We are going in the wrong direction now, which is why it is so important for Canadians to do what is necessary, to wear a mask, to keep your distance, to understand that each of us has the power to end this by the choices we make.
Justin Trudeau: (30:48)
That’s what we have to do now. We have to know that for everything governments and orders of governments can do to keep us safe, ultimately it’s individual Canadians making smart choices that will arrest the spread of this virus. We need to do that all together. We need to keep focused on it. And we need to keep supporting our frontline workers who are there to keep Canadians healthy and safe. We need to prevent our systems from getting overwhelmed. We need to get these numbers back under control. And we are more than capable of doing it. We did it in the spring. We can do it again this fall.
Speaker 6: (31:24)
Thank you, Prime Minister. We’ll go over to the phone now for one more question.
Thank you. Merci. Next question. Ryan Tumilty, the National Post. Line open.
Ryan Tumilty: (31:38)
Yeah, good morning, sir. I’m wondering, to follow up on some of the other questions today, you gave a fair sum of money to the provinces early in the year in a Safe Restart Agreement specifically for testing and contact tracing. And we’re seeing that the provinces are not able to deliver either of those systems effectively right now. Do you think that money was well spent? Do you think it was enough?
Justin Trudeau: (32:05)
Obviously, the $19 billion we sent to the provinces did make a significant difference. And we saw provinces’ capacities on contact tracing and testing increase. But it’s not just about money. It’s also about resources and people. And the Canadian government has created fast response teams for contact tracing, for testing capacity. We’re reaching out to more national laboratories to do their part as well. This is about all hands on deck at this point. And as we have been encouraging and supporting provinces to increase their capacities, so too will we increase our capacities where necessary. Because this is a Team Canada effort. This is not about pointing fingers or laying blame. It’s about all of us working together and keeping as many Canadians as possible safe from this virus as quickly as we can.
Answer repeated in French. I think that from the very beginning, Canadians have seen the different orders of government have been working together. We sent $19 billion to the provinces to help with PPE, to help with testing, to help the most vulnerable. And it has made a difference. But there is still a lot to do. That is why we want to help with additional resources to do additional testing, to have more laboratories available. We’re working with the Red Cross, or we worked with the Red Cross and the Canadian armed forces when we needed it. We’re not here to put the blame. We need to work together and find how we can do better for Canadians.
Ryan Tumilty: (33:46)
Yeah. Just one other question, sir, on another issue. The US Ambassador post, the US Ambassador to Canada, has sat vacant for some time now. I know President Trump has made an announcement, but she hasn’t been confirmed. Are you concerned about not having an Ambassador to the US or from the US during a time like this?
Justin Trudeau: (34:07)
We have an extraordinary Canadian Ambassador in Washington in Kirsten Hillman. And over the past years, we have worked very directly with the US administration, with the president, with top officials. It’s always good to have an ambassador here in Ottawa from Washington to give us extra channels. But at the same time, the direct channels that we have between our two governments have been extremely impactful and will continue to. I’m sure that post will be filled in due course. But for now we continue to work extremely well directly with the administration.
We have enough time for one last question in the room before the Prime Minister leaves.
Speaker 7: (34:51)
Given what’s going on in the United States, I’m just wondering how often you’re being tested. When was the last time you were tested? And would you also undertake to have your office reveal the results of every negative test as well as positive ones?
Justin Trudeau: (35:04)
Every step of the way, I, my office and our government has been following the advice on public health officials. There were many questions of me, when Sophie got tested and tested positive for COVID-19, whether I should be tested as well at that point. The best public health advice at that moment was since I was asymptomatic, I needed to isolate, but I shouldn’t get tested. Throughout, I’ve listened to the advice of medical professionals and public health every step of the way. Earlier in September, I had a bit of a throat tickle is probably the best way I could say it, a bit of a raspy throat. So I checked with my doctor and he recommended I get tested. I got tested. It was negative. And I went back to work a few days later when the doctor told me I was cleared to do it. Every step of the way, I’ve been following public health advice, following expert advice, and I will continue to follow expert advice on that.
Answer repeated in French. From the very beginning, I and the government have been following advice of health experts. For example, when Sophie tested positive for COVID, we wondered whether or not I needed to be tested. Public health advice was that I self-isolate, but because I was asymptomatic, I didn’t need to be tested. We followed that advice. In September, I had a throat tickle. I spoke with my doctor. He recommended that I get tested. I got tested. I received a negative result. I did not have COVID-19. A few days later, when I felt better, I went back to work, as the doctor recommended. What’s important is that we all follow the recommendations and the advice of our doctors and of public health. And that is what I’ve done at every step of the way. Thank you very much, everyone. We will be continuing with question period for the doctors in just a moment.
Speaker 7: (37:36)
We will continue the question period on the phone. So operator, next question.
Thank you. Merci. Please press star one at this time. [foreign language 00:09:48]. Next question, [inaudible 00:09:55], the Toronto Star. Line open.
Speaker 8: (37:57)
Hi, this question is for Dr. Tam. Dr. Tam, given what you just talked about, the accelerated spread that we’re seeing in Ontario, Quebec, and particularly right now in Toronto, and what you talked about about reinstating measure, do you support a new 28-day shutdown in Toronto? Do you think Toronto ought to move to more restrictive measures than are in place right now?
Dr. Theresa Tam: (38:24)
I think obviously the Chief Medical Officer in Toronto is in a much better position to determine that than myself. But what I would say is that the rate of acceleration, and as we’ve heard about, the public health capacity is not limitless. There’s some testing backlogs and some difficulties with contact tracing. Then, making sure that we reduce contacts and look at restricting those settings where transmission is occurring is really critical to do. And the speed is actually of the essence. The faster you reduce this acceleration, the sooner you will actually come out of it. So, I think whatever decision is made has to be made pretty rapidly.
Speaker 7: (39:18)
Thank you. Follow up.
Speaker 8: (39:20)
Well, I’d just like to understand where the responsibility lies for this now. I mean, yes, I think that we’ve heard from Toronto officials, they’d liked something more restrictive. And yet, we don’t have sort of directions from the province that are clear in terms of how tightly that place should be locked down. So I’m just wondering from you, what do you mean? Speed is of the essence, yes. But who do you want to see act now?
Dr. Theresa Tam: (39:46)
So I believe there’s distributed powers. Certain things can be done at the local level, but there are certain powers that are really more at the provincial level. So I think there’s discussions between municipalities and the provincial government at this time. What I was saying is that I think much is in place, much has been learned since the first time we tried to suppress a wave of this virus. But despite that, I think what we’re seeing is probably some of the loosening of the public health measures or return back to activities over those summer months and into the early parts of September. And so with that kind of increased interaction, things do have to be done pretty quickly now to avoid a longer-term shutdown. I think what the strategy at the moment is, is that to try and keep some really important places open, whether it be educational institutes, whether they be surgical procedures that needs to be done.
Dr. Theresa Tam: (41:02)
The key is to look at those places that are spreading, probably the ones with the three Cs, close, crowded, where you can’t control movement inside, places such as the nightclubs and the pubs, and those places are the key areas of focus. So I think that’s what local public health is trying to look at. And there are different ways. I mean, I think much has been attempted in terms of getting the public outside and getting businesses outside. And so that has been tried. And if that isn’t enough, this is why I think locally they are going to be looking for further measures.
Speaker 7: (41:43)
Thank you. We will now turn back to the room. The next question in the room, [CP, Lee. 00:13:48].
Speaker 9: (41:49)
Yes. Dr. Tam, you just talked about a lot of effort to get the public outside. But just over the last few days, authorities on Ontario have been unable to give clear advice to people on gathering around Thanksgiving. We’re now seeing contradictory messages-
Speaker 10: (42:02)
…. Thanksgiving. We’re now seeing contradictory messages, opposite messages, if you will, from Ontario and Quebec, in terms of instructions on masks in schools. If clear and consistent communication is critical in a public health emergency, how worried are you that people are hearing what seem like mixed messages and starting to tune out?
Dr. Theresa Tam: (42:21)
Well, I think to me, bringing the public [inaudible 00:42:26] and societal cohesion is of paramount importance because it is with the cooperation of the public that we were able to get the result that we did in the initial wave, and we need to see that again. I think what the complexities of this current wave is that we’re trying to, at different levels, be as targeted as possible. So that you have to sit and look at your local epidemiology and your circumstances as to what kind of measures might be the most important. And quite frankly, we’re staring in uncertain waters. No one knows exactly what is going to work. So there are some gray zone and people are doing slightly different things. But, I think it is important. I think there are some absolute basics that everybody should be adhering to, which we keep repeating all the time.
Dr. Theresa Tam: (43:17)
And they do work, the personal protective measures with the hand washing, the physical distancing, and the wearing of the masks. So I think I would encourage people to do all of those pieces and look at avoiding crowded conditions and where you can’t control the situation. Now for Thanksgiving, if you were in Ontario and Quebec, I think the most sensible thing to do is to keep to your family, immediate social circle, for now because you’ve seen the epidemic curve, and this is not the time to sort of be complacent about anything and see if we can get through from now until the next couple of weeks and see what happens. So that I think is the advice I would provide.
Speaker 10: (44:04)
And in terms of where we’re sitting with the public health systems, how close are we to being overwhelmed right now? How long do we have?
Dr. Theresa Tam: (44:13)
Well, I think some of the local jurisdictions are already feeling really tired, but they’re this way public health has hasn’t actually stopped working during the summer either. So they’re escalating as we speak, which is again why the key is to have everybody working in the same direction, so that public health isn’t overwhelmed. You can imagine you can add any number of tasks, but what you want is actually people not having to get tested, which means reducing the amount of infection in the community. That kind of epidemic curve, that kind of acceleration, can not be managed just by testing and even contact tracing alone because if you get each individual having like 70 contacts, that’s a lot of people for public health to manage. So I think this is what some municipalities are communicating right now. We haven’t yet seen hospitalizations be really high, but you have to be really careful about that. I’m seeing more reports of longterm care and seniors homes being impacted right now in both Ontario and Quebec. That’s a signal that you could get more hospitalizations and then, later on, mortality or death. So that is clearly something that you got us just immediately prevent. Otherwise, the healthcare system is the next sort of frontier that might be overwhelmed, and we want to prevent that. So just because some of the numbers are going up, just because it’s not as high as the first wave right now, we cannot let this accelerate.
Speaker 11: (45:54)
Thank you, doctor. Next question. CBC Tom.
Tom Perry: (45:57)
Hi, Dr. Tam. Tom Perry with CBC. I asked the Prime Minister about this, the study that came out today saying that Canada should have learned more lessons from the SARS outbreak. Do you think that’s true? Do you think that that Canada could have learned more from SARS that could have put it in a better position to deal with COVID?
Dr. Theresa Tam: (46:14)
Well, I think we did learn a lot from SARS in the public health agency itself, and indeed the position that I’m in was created as a result of SARS. But every outbreak or pandemic is different. This one is magnitudes bigger than SARS itself. So I know we will learn even more from this than we did the last time around. I do think that having created the position that I’m in, for example, and the public health network, it means it has meant that Chief Medical Officers have come together really immediately and be able to collaborate and have the structures in place to do that. As I said before, and I think the report reflected is that we need to broaden pandemic preparedness going forward. So it’s not just public health and maybe hospitals. It has to extend to long-term care, maybe health workers who are doing home care, seniors residences, in our very distributed system for health.
Dr. Theresa Tam: (47:18)
And also then, in the long-term care sector where you have private, you have public, you have many different stakeholders, pandemic preparedness must be that much bigger. I think that’s really critical because health workers work in all sorts of different spaces. And the reach of public health is not huge. And the public health system itself is quite small. We tried to expand it, but in this current pandemic, we’ve had to massively increase some of the surge, but there is a limit, as we just said, to the public health system. So I think we all need to be cognizant of this.
Dr. Theresa Tam: (47:57)
To health workers, I think it’s a very multifaceted approach, but not the least of which is keeping the infection control at such a rate that it does not overwhelm the health system. On this sort of a resurgence, well, I’m really concerned, and we need to be very careful about all the long-term care in those settings. And that both residences, people who live there are seen as [inaudible 00:48:25], but their health providers must, we must do a lot better in protecting them. And so that’s the area that I think we should absolutely focus our attention on.
Tom Perry: (48:38)
Looking back, obviously we’re still in the middle of this thing, but where do you think the weak link was? What, I guess, maybe weakened our preparations for this pandemic?
Dr. Theresa Tam: (48:52)
Well, I think this pandemic, as I said, in terms of scale is massive. So knowing how to access surge capacity is very important. So I think one might need to think about, in intense pandemic periods, having more people trained up. We know, for example, surge capacity might be required for contact tracing, even labs, having those kinds of collaborations set up at the outset. We have had great collaboration with the Canadian Red Cross, but that scale collaboration hasn’t really happened domestically for some time. So I think strengthening all of those will help health providers, health care situations, as well.
Dr. Theresa Tam: (49:36)
Integrating science into public health practice in real time is always quite difficult. So I think, again, we’ve seen unprecedented research and development for sure, but we’ve still got more to do in making sure how do we translate the knowledge then into actual practice? So enhancing our knowledge translational capabilities I think is really, really key.
Dr. Theresa Tam: (50:02)
And then communications. So I think having the Chief Medical Officers, as we have, communicating regularly saying what we know, what we don’t know, is very important and preparing the public that we may have to adapt advice can always be strengthened, preparing the population ahead of time. But I think now we’re looking at well, what more can we do in terms of much more targeted communications, informed by behavioral science to reach, for example, younger adults, people in different racialized or ethnic groups. We don’t, I think, have as much bandwidth as we really should do, and we’re escalating all of that right now. So a lot of that will come from future lessons learned.
Dr. Theresa Tam: (50:53)
We’ve never stood up this of border operations in the history of recent times in Canada that I know of, and that was a massive operation. So we’ll have lessons learned about that. How the whole country’s stockpiling system works and the PPE supply, there will be lessons learned in that and now having built capacity, and some domestic capacity as well, my question in a number of years will be, did we maintain all of that? And did we support the health system and the public health system to be ready for the next one? Because there will be another one.
Speaker 11: (51:30)
Thank you. Next question. Global News, Abigail?
Abigail Bimman: (51:33)
Hi, Dr. Tam. I heard your congratulations to Dr. Michael Houghton. In a news conference this morning, Dr. Houghton talked about Canada’s manufacturing hole. He was critical of how we don’t produce enough of our own diagnostics and vaccines, and that we really need to do that going forward to be prepared. What do you make of his comments?
Dr. Theresa Tam: (51:55)
Well, I think it’s a very timely comment because, as we’ve seen with this pandemic, the world has been extremely globalized. We are still actually dependent on global collaboration and supplies. It’s a very complex system that we have to work through from multiple different aspects of supply. But I think I would hope that the beginnings of supporting the massive capacity, that we have started. Our researchers, our manufacturers, retooling where our biomedical research is at the moment, would help Canada as we move into the future. And that could be infectious disease, but it could be other public health challenges as well.
Abigail Bimman: (52:47)
And I also wanted to ask you about a local situation that unfolded yesterday with Ottawa’s test center staying open after the province decreed that it should close. I understand that’s obviously a local and provincial issue, but I’m wondering if you can shed some light on how well do you think communication is working between all levels of public health officials and anything you can say about yesterday’s incident.
Dr. Theresa Tam: (53:10)
I’m actually not aware of the incident you’re talking about, but obviously at the local level, there will be a lot of different challenges from a logistic perspective, where they set up the clinics and who goes to where. So I appreciate how difficult it is to implement on the ground.
Dr. Theresa Tam: (53:31)
From the federal perspective, we can help with purchasing, we can help provide certain capacities, financial assistance, but in the end, at the coalface, at the local level, implementation is a very difficult job. So I think some of the difficulties we have now is partly to do with that. The other thing that I have to reiterate is that obviously at the federal provincial level, we try to set up guidance for laboratory testing, which is informed by the latest information that we have. We have to test smartly, obviously making sure right now, if there is congestion, et cetera, that those with symptoms, or those who have a risk of exposure, be the ones lining up and not just the worried well. So I think making sure we communicate more consistently about that kind of prioritization is really important right now.
Dr. Theresa Tam: (54:34)
But otherwise, people who haven’t had any exposure risk may want to sort of stay at home and just look at what happens to your symptom before consulting with public health appointments. But again, people need to be patient, but I do understand that at every level we need to work really hard at getting backlogs and turn around times a lot faster. I do think that pursuing all avenues of access to more rapid testing is something that we’ve been discussing in recent days and see how that could support the capacity as well.
Speaker 11: (55:15)
Thank you, Doctor. [foreign language 00:13:17] That will be all for today’s press conference.
And you have been listening to Dr. Theresa Tam, the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Canada, as well as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with their COVID-19 updates. The CBC’s Hannah Tibideau was also listening in and she joins us now live from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Hannah, what stood out for you?
Hannah Tibideau: (55:41)
Yeah, let me pick up on what the Prime Minister had to say, Andrew. He was asked at very last, would he agree to have daily testing and release those tests because of-