By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s death toll from the coronavirus rose by less than 10% for the third day in a row, data showed on Wednesday, and some provinces prepared to start lifting shutdowns imposed to fight the outbreak.
The public health agency said the number of dead was 1,871, up 8.3% from the 1,728 reported on Tuesday. That follows a 7.3% rise on Tuesday and 6.9% on Monday, after a 12% jump on Sunday. Some days last month were marked by a 20% jump.
The figure for positive diagnoses with the coronavirus had climbed to 38,932, up from 37,382.
Chief public health officer Theresa Tam said authorities were continuing to make progress. Even so, “We are seeing some bumps in the road that remind us we can’t let down our guard,” she told an Ottawa briefing, citing, for example, the large number of deaths in seniors’ residences.
Ontario, the most populous of Canada’s 10 provinces, said it would ask the federal government to send military personnel to deal with a rash of cases in long-term care homes.
Quebec, the second most-populous province, has already made a similar request. It expects to announce plans for reopening schools and businesses next week, said Premier Francois Legault.
The western province of Saskatchewan is due to unveil a plan on Thursday to start lifting restrictions on businesses and individuals’ movement. The tiny Atlantic province of Prince Edward Island says it will start relaxing the shutdown on May 1.
“I think we have to tread very carefully at this point,” said Tam, who is working with provincial counterparts to find ways of judging whether any reopening could be done safely.
Criteria could include the number of hospitalizations and the cases reported daily.
“We want to make sure you’re right at the bottom of that epidemic curve,” she said.
In Toronto, Ontario Premier Doug Ford told reporters, “There’s never going to be one date where we would just open up the economy. … We’re going to do it at a trickle and constantly monitor and measure it from there.”
Ottawa has already unveiled more than C$115 billion ($81.3 billion) in aid for businesses and people to help deal with the partial shutdown.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday that Ottawa would spend another C$9 billion on programs to help students find summer jobs.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Additional reporting by Kelsey Johnson in Ottawa, Allison Lampert in Montreal and Amran Abocar in Toronto; Editing by Leslie Adler)