By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada is at a tipping point in the fight against a second wave of the novel coronavirus and health care workers are increasingly swamped, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in some of his most gloomy comments on Friday.
He spoke after health officials said authorities needed to do more now to fight the pandemic since forecasts suggest the number of new infections will continue to accelerate.
Trudeau said the second wave was “really frustrating”. He and other officials are urging people not to gather in large groups next Monday on Canadian Thanksgiving, a major holiday.
“We are at a tipping point in this pandemic. Not only is the second wave under way, (but) yesterday we hit the highest daily record for cases, well above what we saw this spring,” he told a news conference.
“I know this is discouraging … the increase in new cases is putting an enormous pressure on hospitals and health care workers, who are more and more swamped.”
Health officials project the cumulative death toll could reach between 9,690 and 9,800 by Oct. 17, up from 9,557 now. Total cases could total 188,150 to 197,830 by the same date, compared to 175,559 today.
Almost 80% of cases have been recorded in Ontario and Quebec, the two most populous provinces.
Ontario will close indoor gyms and cinemas and ban restaurants from serving food indoors. The 28-day measures, which apply to the major regions of Toronto, Peel and Ottawa, start on Saturday.
Ontario could experience “worst-case scenarios seen in northern Italy and New York City” if trends continue, the provincial government said.
Trudeau’s federal government, which has already announced more than C$210 billion ($160 billion) in aid for people and businesses hit by the virus, said on Friday it would launch an improved program for enterprises having trouble pay rents.
(Additional reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa, Moira Warburton in Toronto and Allison Lampert in Montreal; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Grant McCool)