Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he’s taking all precautions and following all public health guidelines after three members of his staff and three members of his security team tested positive for COVID-19.
Trudeau said he has taken multiple rapid tests which all have come back negative, but still opted to hold a virtual press conference on the COVID-19 situation in Canada on Wednesday out of an abundance of caution.
“Following public health guidelines, I’m being careful about everything I do,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau said public health authorities have told him to reduce his contacts but haven’t recommended he fully self isolate at this time.
Earlier this week, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly announced she has tested positive for COVID-19.
“I have taken a rapid test and tested positive for #COVID19,” Joly said in a social media post Monday afternoon. “Following public health guidelines, I am in isolation and will continue my work virtually, as I have been for a number of days, until I get the results of my PCR test.”
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who also appeared virtually with Trudeau on Wednesday, had previously worked from home after two of her staff members tested positive.
Trudeau was joined by Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam. Both said Canadians should be cautious heading into the holidays due to the surge of cases driven by the Omicron variant.
More than 11,000 new cases were reported in Canada on Tuesday — more than double the 5,000 daily average cases being reported last week.
Liberal MP travelled internationally
The Liberals drove the message of holiday caution home later Wednesday by removing Liberal MP Yves Robillard from his parliamentary committee duties after it became known that the MP decided to act against the leader’s instructions not to travel internationally over the Christmas break.
“I was profoundly disappointed to learn that Yves Robillard has decided to travel outside the country despite this measure,” Chief Government Whip, Steven MacKinnon, said in a statement.
“Although the member is fully vaccinated, his trip is not considered essential and … I also intend to further discuss this matter with him upon his return.”
WATCH | Trudeau still negative after staff members test positive for COVID-19:
Tam said the number of reported cases is likely lower than the actual case counts given the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.
“We can’t prevent every case, we can’t actually detect every case necessarily because of the sheer numbers,” she said.
On average, more than 1,000 people were being treated with COVID-19 in hospitals and 400 in ICUs over the past week, she said.
Tam encourages Canadians to get boosters
Despite some of the earliest data from around the world suggesting Omicron could be less severe than previous variants, Tam said it could still put strain on the health system.
“Because we’re especially worried about the potential impact of a sudden and strong surge on the health-care system, we’re urging all Canadians to do what they can to help mitigate this.”
WATCH | Omicron ‘now predominating’ in several areas across Canada, Tam says:
Tam recommended that gatherings should remain limited to family and close friends over the holidays, and encouraged Canadians to get their booster shot. Trudeau said the government has enough booster doses for every eligible Canadian.
The prime minister also said the federal government will have delivered 35 million rapid tests to the provinces and territories this month and promised tens of millions more would be coming in the new year.
Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the federal government will also begin to distribute rapid tests directly to Canadians by partnering with the Red Cross and food banks.
Ottawa ‘anxiously’ awaiting COVID-19 pill approval
U.S. health regulators on Wednesday authorized the first pill against COVID-19, a Pfizer drug that Americans will be able to take at home to head off the worst effects of the virus.
The pill boasts a nearly 90 per cent reduction in hospitalizations and deaths among patients most likely to get severe disease.
Pfizer’s pill is awaiting approval from Health Canada, which is reviewing the drugs on a “priority basis,” a spokesperson for the department told CBC News in an email Wednesday.
WATCH | Procurement minister discusses vaccine supply situation:
Procurement Minister Filomena Tassi told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics that the government is “anxiously” awaiting the pill’s approval.
“Health Canada knows we really want this approval because we want to be able to have this other tool,” she told host Paul Hunter.
Pfizer said it expects to manufacture 180,000 treatment courses by the end of this year and at least 50 million courses by the end of next year, including 21 million in the first half of 2022.
An antiviral pill from Merck is also under review at Health Canada. The government has an agreement with the company to provide 500,000 courses of treatment, with an option for 500,000 more.