THE RCMP HAS ANNOUNCED NEW POWERS TO ENFORCE THE QUARANTINE ACT, WHILE THE PRIME MINISTER HAS HINTED RULES COULD BE LOOSENED THIS SUMMER IF CANADIANS ACT NOW TO CONTAIN THE SPREAD OF COVID-19.
Arrests possible; PM hopes rules ease by summer
The RCMP announced new powers aimed at enforcing the Quarantine Act, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hinted Friday that rules could be loosened this summer if Canadians act now to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The police force says officers could visit homes to ensure anyone entering Canada is self-isolating for 14 days, and police can now make arrests, rather than issue a court appearance notice or summons.
The RCMP says arrests under the act, violations of which could include a fine of up to $750,000 and imprisonment for six months, will be a last resort.
Trudeau said Friday he is not planning to invoke the Emergencies Act, which would give the federal government sweeping powers.
The prime minister reminded Canadians that vigilance against future outbreaks will be the norm for the next 12 to 18 months until a vaccine is developed, but hinted that regulatory changes could bring relief in the summer if people stay strong and stay home for the time being to save lives.
“If we do things right, this will be the first and worst phase that we go through as a country in terms of COVID-19,” Trudeau said.
“It is possible we may be out of that wave this summer, and at that point we will be able to talk about loosening up some the rules that are in place.”
He said some people may be able to return to work to “get things rolling again,” though those changes will require a cautious approach.
Trudeau will be at the House of Commons on Saturday as the government attempts to pass the wage subsidy bill.
The bill will allow companies to get a 75-per-cent subsidy on each employee’s wages.
On Thursday, federal health officials released modelling that showed that even under a best-case scenario, with strong public health measures in place, Canada may see 11,000 to 22,000 deaths before the pandemic is over. Under the worst-case scenario with no measures in place, the model showed deaths would easily top 300,000.
The modelling did provide some good news. Canada is still at an earlier stage of the pandemic than the hardest-hit countries, meaning the widespread lockdowns brought in last month have a better chance of flattening the curve.
“Our health-care systems across the country are coping for the time being,” Trudeau said Thursday. “But we’re at a fork in the road between the best and the worst possible outcomes. The best possible outcome is no easy path for any of us.”
He called on Canadians to continue staying home, saying the country is still in the midst of the first wave of infections. He said the wave appears set to peak in late spring, and ideally end in the summer.
“There will likely be smaller outbreaks for a number of months after that,” Trudeau said. “This will be the new normal until a vaccine is developed.”
A vaccine is thought to be at least 12 to 18 months away, meaning Canada will have to stay “vigilant” against the virus for a long time to come, Trudeau said.
The big question is whether the restrictive physical-distancing measures that have devastated Canada’s economy can start to be lifted after the wave recedes.
Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said that at least some measures to stop the spread of the virus will likely have to stay in place for as long as there’s no vaccine.
“We have to be really careful how to release some of those public health measures because the population is not immune,” she said.
However, Trudeau said he believes there can still be a gradual reopening of the economy.
“Once we get through this first wave, we will have developed both tools and habits that will allow us to be much more resilient and resistant to further outbreaks and spreads,” he said.