Trudeau Sends Emergency Aid to Help Ontario Fight New Covid Wave

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Sunday he’ll deploy additional health-care workers and equipment to help Ontario, the country’s most populous province, which is struggling to contain a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases.

The move follows Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s decision on Friday to impose some of North America’s toughest restrictions to get a handle on the region’s third wave of the pandemic that threatens to overwhelm its health-care system.

In a video posted on Twitter, Trudeau said he’s working with provinces and territories that could help, including Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, with a particular focus on reducing infection rates in Toronto, the country’s largest city.

“First, we are mobilizing federal health-care workers from across government departments to deploy to the front lines of Ontario, specifically the GTA where the situation is most critical,” Trudeau said, referring to the Greater Toronto Area. “From National Defence to Immigration, departments across the federal government are standing up support.”

Ottawa will foot the bill for all costs associated with travel and other elements of the aid, which includes increased rapid testing to help stop the spread of the virus, Trudeau said.

This comes with C$46 million ($36.8 million) in funding to expand Ontario’s virtual health care, as well as additional supplies of drugs used to treat Covid patients. On Saturday, the federal government announced a two-month extension for two mobile health units until June 30.

Ontario reported on Sunday 4,250 new cases in the last 24 hours, with 2,107 virus patients in hospital and 741 of these people being treated in intensive care.

While Canada has a shortage of vaccines, and some provinces have limited doses of AstraZeneca to people over 55 years due to blood clot concerns, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu added at a press conference on Sunday that the country has approved this vaccine for people 18 years and older. This could potentially make more vaccines available to more people.

On Friday, Ontario banned almost all outdoor public gatherings, closed golf and tennis courses, and shut some construction sites. That followed earlier decisions to close schools and non-essential retailers, while hair salons and restaurant dining rooms have been closed for several months in some areas including Toronto.

The Ontario government’s new measures have divided opinion in the province of 14.7 million people, with some saying it should have cracked down sooner while others see the restrictions as curbing civil liberties.

Across the country, an average of 8,669 new cases have been reported daily from April 9 to 15, up 26% from the prior seven-day period, data from Canada’s chief public health officer showed.

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