Coronavirus Updates Canada: Justin Trudeau Scolds Canadians to 'Stay Home'

Ontario to close all non-essential businesses on Tuesday, Ottawa may bring in fines and jail time after Vancouver residents partied and flocked to beaches over the weekend.

by Anya Zoledziowski
Mar 23 2020, 6:20pm

Ottawa is considering strict measures to keep Canadians indoors after Vancouverites flocked to beaches over the weekend. Photo by Darryl Dyck/CP

This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.

Updated at 1:45 (EDT): Premier Doug Ford has ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses in the province, effective Tuesday night, shortly after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau voiced disappointment in Canadians who haven’t complied with social distancing measures geared towards fighting the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

In a press conference on Monday, Ford said he will give more information about what stores will be allowed to remain open on Tuesday.

“The gravity of this order does not escape me,” Ford said.

According to the Toronto Star , the only businesses likely to remain open are pharmacies, grocery stores, supermarkets, takeout restaurants, and government-run liquor stores.

The country’s death toll continues to climb and now sits above 20, with more than 1,500 COVID-19 cases nationwide. Ontario confirmed 78 new cases on Monday morning, bringing in its total to 503.

Ford said he’s particularly concerned about the fact that “snow birds,” or Canadians who spend the winter in warmer cities around the world, don’t self-isolate when they return from their travels.

Everyone who returns from abroad should not visit any stores, Ford said; they need to stay at home and quarantine for two weeks.

Ontario schools, which were supposed to open on April 6, likely will not open that early, Ford added.

Federal government may issue fines and jail time

Canada’s federal government will “do whatever it takes” to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Monday.

“We’ve all seen the pictures of people online who seem to think they’re invincible,” Trudeau said. “Well, they’re not. Go home and stay home.”

Several images and videos surface on Twitter over the weekend, highlighting crowded beaches and beer pong games, despite national efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) by encouraging people to stay home.

Now, Ottawa is considering issuing steep fines and jail time for people who continue to play “loose and hard” with social distancing.

“If you choose to get together with people or go to crowded places, you’re not just putting yourself at risk, but you’re putting others at risk as well,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau said his government “isn’t taking anything off the table,” meaning Ottawa could still evoke either the Quarantine Act or the Emergencies Act.

The Emergencies Act would give Trudeau and his cabinet sweeping powers, such as fines or jail sentences for people who contradict emergency orders. To call a state of emergency, Canada’s parliament, which is currently shut down, would have to be temporarily recalled for a vote, Trudeau said.

After Vancouverites were caught socializing, the city earned a new moniker: the Florida of Canada.

“If I get corona, I get corona. At the end of the day, I'm not going to let it stop me from partying,” one Miami spring breaker told CBS News last week.

In an effort to prevent public socializing, Vancouver has removed all logs from its beaches and announced closures of all public outdoor recreational facilities, including parks, tennis courts, and skate parks.

In Edmonton, people flocked to the city’s river valley and gathered in tight, close-knit groups, prompting the city’s mayor to threaten stricter social distancing measures.

On Sunday, Minister of Health Patty Hajdu reiterated the need to stay home, suggesting that Ottawa could enforce the Federal Quarantine Act if people don’t start taking social distancing seriously—an increasingly important measure as cases of the virus increase rapidly.

“Let me be perfectly clear,” Hajdu told reporters on Sunday. “We will use every measure in our toolbox at the federal level to ensure compliance.”

The Quarantine Act gives the federal government powers to impose harsh fines or criminal penalties on people who fail to comply with orders aimed at curbing virus spread. Quebec City has already arrested one woman who broke her quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19.

Canada’s premiers have a meeting planned with Trudeau on Monday evening to discuss a coordinated response.

Ottawa continues to call on all Canadians to practise social distancing, which requires people to stay home as much as possible, avoid large crowds, and keep about 1-2 metres away from others.

Following the advice from public health officials, every province has declared a state of emergency, closing most non-essential services, such as bars, nightclubs, and dine-in restaurants, and crowded services like daycares, faith-based institutions, and libraries. Nova Scotia has blocked all group gatherings that host more than five people and tightened its provincial borders. Toronto announced on Sunday that daycares will offer 24-hour services for essential workers, including medical professionals, who have kids aged 12 and under.

More Canadians to be repatriated

Air Canada, West Jet, Sunwing, and Air Transat are working with Trudeau’s government to repatriate Canadians who are stranded abroad.

Three flights have been secured this week to collect Canadians in Peru and two more flights are scheduled to bring Canadians back from Morocco. Air Canada has managed to secure an additional flight from Spain and Air Transat has secured flights from Honduras, El Salvador, Ecuador, and Guatemala.

Canadians stuck abroad have to register with the federal government, Trudeau reiterated.

New funding announced

On Monday, Trudeau announced $192 million to directly support vaccine production in Canada. The money will support researchers developing a vaccine and, later, will fund accelerated vaccine production.

“We have to remember vaccines won’t be ready overnight. It will take months to develop and test them,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau also announced a $5 billion loan program to support farmers. Food growers can apply through farm credit Canada to apply for financial support.

When asked if renters who can’t currently afford housing will get additional support, Trudeau did not provide a clear answer, but said he understands many people are unable to pay their bills as a result of COVID-19-related layoffs.

Team Canada refuses to send athletes to the 2020 Olympics

The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) announced they will not send athletes to the 2020 Olympics, set to begin July 24 in Tokyo, and called for a one-year postponement of the games.

Because of COVID-19, “it is not safe for our athletes, and the health and safety of their families and the broader Canadian community for athletes to continue training towards these games,” the committees said in a statement released Sunday night.

The statement added that Olympic participation would “run counter” to advice from public health officials, who urge Canadians to stay at home.

Australia followed Canada’s lead and also pulled out of the Games, while the International Olympics Committee (IOC) said it would take up to four weeks to decide whether to postpone the games by a year.

In a statement released on Sunday, the IOC said cancellation of the games “is not on the agenda.”

First COVID-19 cases confirmed in northern Canada

As of Monday morning, Canada had more than 1,500 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19, with 20 recorded deaths. Every province is affected, and over the weekend, the Northwest Territories shut down its borders after confirming its first COVID-19 case, and Yukon reported two cases—a couple who had recently travelled to the U.S.

British Columbia: 424

Alberta: 259

Saskatchewan: 30

Manitoba: 19

Ontario: 503

Quebec: 221

Newfoundland and Labrador: 9

New Brunswick: 17

Nova Scotia: 28

Prince Edward Island: 3

Yukon: 2

Northwest Territories: 1

Nunavut: 0

There are nearly 350,000 COVID-19 cases globally, with over 15,000 deaths.

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