OTTAWA/TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadians should accept the world will change even if a vaccine is found and the coronavirus pandemic ends, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday, urging people to adjust to a new normal that will require modified behavior.
Trudeau unveiled new measures to support hard hit sectors, including C$470 million ($334 million) for fisheries, and the partial reopening of some national parks.
“We have to recognize that things will change in this world, even after the end of this pandemic, even after a vaccine,” he told reporters. “COVID-19 will be one of the things that create changes in our society. There will be adjustments.”
World Health Organization emergencies expert Mike Ryan said on Wednesday that the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could become endemic like HIV and “may never go away.”
More Canadian provinces are lifting restrictions and moving to restart more economic activity, while the warmer weather is spurring more people outdoors.
Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, will permit some retail stores as well as vehicle dealerships and construction sites to reopen on May 19, in the first of three stages to restart the province’s economy. [L1N2CW1TS]
It was impossible to put a date on the next stage, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said, adding it was contingent on a continued decline in cases.
“The truth is we can’t predict where things will go so we need to be ready,” Ford told reporters. “As we get more and more people back to work, the risk of flare up is real so we must be vigilant.”
Canada’s coronavirus death toll edged up by 2.5% to 5,337 from Wednesday, one of the smallest daily increases, according to public health agency data.
More than 60% of the deaths have occurred in Quebec, the second most populous of the 10 provinces.
Premier Francois Legault said the situation in Montreal, Canada’s second largest city, was fragile. Many enterprises are still closed and a planned reopening on May 25 can only happen if the daily death toll starts to fall, he said.
“I understand some people in the business community are a bit discouraged, but we have to think about our health most of all,” Legault told a briefing, urging people to wear masks.
Legault also said Montreal schools would stay shut until the start of the new year in late August rather than reopen this month as originally planned.
Besides support for fisheries, Ottawa will also extend the federal wage subsidy program to encourage more employers to keep workers on the payroll.
Canadian farmers and agriculture businesses have claimed most of the C$5 billion ($3.55 billion) in extra credit offered by Ottawa to boost their cash flow during the coronavirus pandemic, in less than two months.
In an annual review of Canada’s financial systems, the Bank of Canada said that while the coronavirus remains a massive challenge, measures it has taken “are showing signs of succeeding.”
Canadian manufacturing sales in March slumped by the most in over 11 years as the pandemic forced the shutdown of many firms, and April looks set to be worse, Statistics Canada said. [L1N2CV2C4]
($1=1.4067 Canadian dollars)
Reporting by Moira Warburton and Amran Abocar in Toronto, David Ljunggren in Ottawa; writing by Amran Abocar; Editing by Alistair Bell, Steve Orlofsky and Marguerita Choy