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

Vancouver Sun - - NP - HOLLY MCKENZIESU­TTER

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.

JUSTIN TANG / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau speaks at his daily press con­fer­ence out­side of his res­i­dence in Ot­tawa on Fri­day, where he voiced his hope that the first wave of COVID-19 would pass by the mid­dle of sum­mer.

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