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PM says cabinet focused on controlling COVID-19 as new cases increase

PM says cabinet focused on controlling COVID-19 as new cases increase
Politics
OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his cabinet is focused on controlling COVID-19 and the potential impacts of the virus resurgence this fall as his front bench meets to discuss the ongoing pandemic and the governments response plans.

The Liberals plans to pivot to the next phase of COVID-19 recovery with the upcoming throne speech and new session of Parliament are being put on the backburner as Trudeau says the focus will remain on responding to the pandemic which continues to spread across the country, prompting concerns of a second wave.

Trudeaus cabinet is meeting in Ottawa over the next two days, holding whats usually an out-of-town retreat just minutes away from Parliament Hill to plot out their agenda for the months ahead.

We need to get through this in order to be able to talk about next steps, so a lot of what we re going to be doing during this retreat will be talking about how we continue to keep COVID under control, continue to make sure that Canadians are safe, that we re not overloading our health-care system. These are the things that we are focused on, these are the things that we re going to dig into, he told reporters Monday morning.

Trudeau also urged Canadians to remain vigilant and keep up public health measures, including physical distancing, hand washing and mask wearing, to help provincial authorities avoid having to pull back on reopening plans.

We know that its what every single one of us can do, and must do that will control the spread of this virus. The last thing anyone wants is to go into this fall in a lockdown similar to this spring and the way we can prevent that is by remaining vigilant, he said.

On their way into their morning meeting, several cabinet ministers spoke about the need to focus on Canadians health.

The health of the economy is linked to the health of Canadians. One goes with the other. And therefore, the most important thing right now is to fight the pandemic, and that s why we ll be really talking about that today and making sure it is a priority, said Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly.

The rising number of new cases means the federal governments focus will remain more on limiting the impacts of a second wave and plans for urgent response measures, rather than pushing ahead with whats been billed as major policy changes aimed at economic and social recovery.

Obviously, COVID has exposed weaknesses in our country, where vulnerable people are continuing to slip through the cracks. We will have conversations about next steps as well, but our focus is very much on what we need to do to control COVID-19, Trudeau said on Monday.

With kids back to school after a summer of somewhat eased restrictions and expanding social bubbles, cases have been slowly but steadily on the uptick across the country, with some provinces reporting their highest numbers of confirmed new cases since June.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, as of Sunday an average of 633 cases are being reported daily across Canada, which is more than 20 per cent higher than the week prior.

This has prompted health officials to urge Canadians to not become complacent with their precautionary measures when interacting with people.

At the same time, as we shift more of our activities indoors, we will need to increase our awareness of COVID-19 risk factors in reopened settings, said Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam in a statement on Sunday.

Parliament is set to resume on Sept. 23, with a new throne speech marking the beginning of the new legislative session, repositioning the governments priorities since the pandemic altered their initial agenda.

With the speech Trudeau has promised to reset the approach of this government for our recovery to build back better.

This is our chance to build a more resilient Canada, a Canada that is healthier and safer greener and more competitive, a Canada that is more welcoming and more fair. This is our moment to change the future for the better, Trudeau said when he prorogued Parliament.

With the throne speech will come a key confidence vote, and while Trudeau has said hes not interested in triggering an election and sending Canadians to the polls during a pandemic, in his remarks Monday, he defended not directly consulting opposition leaders to try to build consensus and ensure support for the government.

We have been engaging with opposition parties throughout this COVID crisis, listening to their priorities. They ve made public their reflections around what they d like to see go forward, he said.
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