PM, ministers, Tam take break from daily updates on COVID-19 pandemic

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam will post her regular update online

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his ministers and top public health officials are taking a rare break today from the daily briefings they’ve been providing since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down Canada in mid-March.

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam will post online her regular update on the number of Canadians infected with the deadly virus that causes COVID-19 and the number who have died because of it.

As of Friday evening, more than 55,000 Canadians had tested positive for the disease and almost 3,400 had died.

Since the outbreak hit Canada, it’s become routine for Trudeau to provide daily briefings and take questions from reporters, followed by a separate briefing and question-and-answer session with Tam, her deputy, Dr. Howard Njoo, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and other ministers.

Prior to today, that routine has been broken only rarely — on Easter Sunday and last Sunday.

However, Trudeau devoted most of his briefing Thursday to the crash of a Royal Canadian Air Force helicopter off the coast of Greece, and most of Friday’s briefing to his government’s decision to ban some 1,500 models and variants of military-style assault firearms.

The intrusion of other issues and today’s break from briefings come as provinces begin to take cautious first steps to relax the rigid restrictions on businesses and on the movement of people amid signs that efforts to curb the spread of the virus are working.

At her briefing Friday, Tam applauded Canadians for rising to the challenge of physical distancing, which has shuttered many businesses and forced people to isolate themselves at home.

“In fact, so much so you appear to have bent the curve, so bravo,” she said.

“We couldn’t be prouder at how Canadians have taken on our advice while adding a dash of creativity and vigour and keeping each other going with music, humour and the magic of kindness.”

Still, Tam warned it’s far too early for anyone to let down their guard.

The daily briefings are to resume Sunday and federal officials say there is still plenty to talk about to keep them going for some time to come.

Among other things, the federal government is promising additional measures to help seniors and others and sectors of the economy that have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic or have not so far benefited from billions in emergency aid.

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