While he admits the public’s willingness to follow public health measures may be waning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is asking Canadians to stay focused on preventing the Omicron variant from ruining the coming winter and spring.
“Omicron doesn’t care if we’re tired of restrictions,” Trudeau said in a year-end interview airing on Rosemary Barton Live on Sunday. “It’s going to keep doing what it does anyway.
“We have a choice, because we’ve seen it so many times. If we act early and carefully to hold back, to starve Omicron, if we over the next two weeks don’t feed it, don’t give it opportunities to spread more than it has to, we’ll have a much better winter and a way better spring.”
Trudeau made the remarks as the federal government announced stronger testing requirements for international travellers in an effort to control the spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant.
Starting Tuesday, all travellers will again need to get a COVID-19 molecular test before returning to Canada. Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said today he’s rolling back the exemption announced last month, which permitted fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents taking trips abroad lasting less than 72 hours to return home without proof of a negative test.
The restored testing requirement will be enforced starting Tuesday, Dec. 21. The federal government is also advising against any unnecessary travel during the Christmas period.
The Liberals and the NDP have said their MPs and staff are not permitted to travel internationally right now. Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has not given that direction to his team.
In an interview airing Saturday, O’Toole told CBC Radio’s The House that he’s not instructing Conservative MPs to obey the federal government’s recommendation against foreign travel because there are other ways to stay safe.
“We’ve got vaccination rates over 80 per cent with double testing at departure and arrival, with mask usage, all the rules,” he said. “You can mitigate risks and try and have the right balance for the economy and for our way of life while keeping a focus on safety. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
The number of Omicron cases is now doubling every two days or less — an unprecedented rate of spread for a COVID variant.
Strengthening public health measures
On Thursday, the Ontario government’s COVID-19 science table released modelling suggesting that without “circuit breaker” restrictions to reduce social contacts by about 50 per cent, booster shots alone likely won’t be enough to stop the number of daily cases in the province from hitting between 6,000 and more than 10,000 per day by the end of the year.
Trudeau said he believes that, despite widespread pandemic fatigue, Canadians will do what it takes to control the spread of Omicron because they are now “empowered with knowledge.”
“We’ve shown the highest vaccination rates of so many other countries because people are doing the right thing. We know what to do,” Trudeau told CBC’s chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton.
The prime minister also said he believes public health orders will not have to be enforced to the same degree they were during previous waves because Canadians have seen that they work.
We can “rely a lot on what Canadians have shown, which is the thoughtful reasonableness, a willingness to protect our frontline health care workers and protect our most vulnerable,” Trudeau said.
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