OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is taking a measure of satisfaction from early indications that Canada’s COVID-19 caseload is not on the same trajectory as that in the United States.
While the impact of Canada’s latest efforts to curb the spread won’t be clear for another week or two, Trudeau says he’s proud that Canadians appear to be taking seriously the need to stay home and keep their distance from others.
“I think I would say we’re not necessarily on the same trajectory,” Trudeau said in French during Monday’s daily briefing. “We were quicker to get the screening done, and I think we have had more success in getting people to self-isolate.”
South of the border, a slow federal response, delays in testing and a shortage of equipment have conspired to make the U.S. the current epicentre of the outbreak, with nearly 150,000 cases and 2,500 deaths.
On the weekend, reportedly swayed by projections that the pandemic, if left unchecked, could push the death toll in the U.S. into the millions, President Donald Trump abandoned his “aspirational” target of the April 12 long weekend as he announced an extension of his government’s stay-at-home measures until the end of the month.
“Everything depends on the choices that people have made and continue to make,” Trudeau said.
“I’m very proud of the way that Canadians have rallied and continue to abide by the guidelines. I think they understand that we all have an opportunity to have a direct impact on Canada’s ability to come out of this.”
When confronted with the failings of the American response, Trump frequently claims that things would have been far worse had the U.S. not slammed the door back in late January on travellers from China, where the pandemic originated. Most major airlines by that point had already suspended flights to China.
Canada, however, didn’t take significant steps to restrict international travellers until mid-March. On Monday, Trudeau — asked whether that should have happened earlier — seemed to acknowledge that with the benefit of hindsight, more could have been done.
“We’re obviously not, in an unprecedented situation, always going to get things perfectly right,” he said.
“We’re going to continue to be committed to doing the right things as best as we can and figuring out what works, what doesn’t work, and moving forward in a way that is both nimble and focused on helping Canadians, insomuch as a government can be nimble and agile.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 30, 2020.