By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada faces “a critical week” in fighting the coronavirus, a senior official said on Thursday, as the death toll jumped and the most populous province said residents should brace for a stark scenario.
Deaths surged to 161 from 105 on Wednesday while positive cases rose to 11,131 from 9,017, according to provincial announcements compiled by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
“This is a critical week in our fight against the coronavirus,” said Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.
Canada’s public health agency is particularly worried by the spread of the coronavirus in seniors’ residences, which are turning into hotspots in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia – the three biggest provinces by population.
It has also expressed concerns about remote, northern indigenous communities, where healthcare is scant. Canada’s military is in talks to offer help if necessary, an official at the ministry of indigenous services told reporters.
The health agency predicted a surge in Ontario, which accounts for more than a third of Canada’s 38 million citizens.
Ontario premier Doug Ford said he would release sobering internal projections on Friday.
“I have to be up front with people, and I’m going to be, and people will see some really stark figures tomorrow,” he said.
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Toronto Mayor John Tory – unhappy that people are defying a shutdown order by gathering in public places – announced officials would mount “a blitz on our parks” to force people back home.
“The time for puzzlement at this misbehavior is over,” he told reporters.
In Quebec, Premier Francois Legault urged police “to be less tolerant” when dealing with those ignoring orders to stay at home. People can be fined up to C$6,000, he said.
Legault, worried about shortages of medical supplies, said Quebec had enough ventilators for another week.
Some medical personnel have raised concerns about a lack of personal protection equipment. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said authorities had received over a million masks on Wednesday.
New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs told CBC his province would run out of testing kits in about a week if they ramped up efforts to see who had contracted the virus.
Trudeau sidestepped requests to outline the projections Ottawa was using.
“I think people can imagine a range of scenarios that shows everything from everyone gets suddenly better within the next few weeks to this situation just keeps getting worse,” he said.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Additional reporting by Amran Abocar in Toronto, Steve Scherer in Ottawa and Allison Lampert in Montreal; Editing by Bernadette Baum, Grant McCool and Marguerita Choy)