WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned on Saturday that if provinces move too quickly to reopen their economies, a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic could send Canada “back into confinement this summer.”
Trudeau, who represents a Montreal, Quebec parliamentary district, told reporters in a daily briefing that he is concerned about the virus’ spread in that province, the country’s epicenter. He said any reopening should be gradual.
Although health officials have pointed to a flattening rate of daily cases in many provinces, Trudeau said Canada was “not in the recovery phase yet.”
“We are still in the emergency phase… The vast majority of Canadians continue to need to be very careful.”
Canada’s death toll rose 3.5% to 4,628 from a day earlier, while cases approached 67,000. Nearly 60% of Canada’s deaths have occurred in Quebec, where there are numerous outbreaks in nursing homes.
Quebec has unveiled plans to restart its economy gradually, but on Thursday delayed for the second time the date when businesses can reopen in Montreal.
Ontario reported an increase of 346 cases, the lowest daily increase in more than a month, and said it would open provincial parks for some uses starting on Monday.
More than 80% of Canadian deaths from the virus are residents of nursing homes, a “national tragedy” caused in part by housing up to four per room, said Canada Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Howard Njoo.
Some of the country’s biggest individual outbreaks are in Cargill Inc [CARG.UL] and JBS SA beef plants in Alberta, which has forced them to reduce production.
This has resulted in a glut of live cattle and tight beef supplies.
President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he had urged the U.S. Justice Department to look into allegations that the meatpacking industry broke antitrust law because of a widening gap between low prices for livestock and high prices for meat.
Canada will also take a “very careful look,” Trudeau said. “We need to make sure no one is profiting in an exaggerated way from this crisis,” he said.
Trudeau gave no specifics. The independent Competition Bureau reviews such concerns.
Coronavirus infections are also multiplying in Canada’s remote, indigenous communities.
The pandemic helped cause a record-breaking loss of 2 million jobs in April, Canadian government data showed on Friday. The unemployment rate jumped less than expected, however, because some laid-off people collect federal aid and are waiting to return to their old jobs when the pandemic passes.
(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Franklin Paul and Dan Grebler)