OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau chose frank words to describe a nation’s ennui Tuesday, calling the ongoing coronavirus pandemic a situation that “really sucks.”
Trudeau’s comment was prompted by a reporter’s question asking how much responsibility the federal government bears for COVID-19 fatigue, brought on by changing public health advice since March.
“It’s tough going through this second wave,” the prime minister told reporters in Ottawa, acknowledging there is a “tough winter” ahead.
Watch: Trudeau says family won’t trick-or-treat this year. Story continues below video.
COVID-19 case counts reached two new milestones this weekend. Ontario reported more than 1,042 cases on Sunday, the first time the province has logged more than 1,000 cases in a single day since the start of the pandemic. The number of total infections in Quebec also hit six-figures for the first time, with nearly 101,000 reported cases as of Tuesday.
After recent reports of people continuing to host and attend large parties, despite pleas by public health officials to avoid such gatherings, the prime minister raised some rhetorical questions of his own for consideration.
“I think we have to ask ourselves who we are as Canadians. Are we really good neighbours? Are we really people who care about the most vulnerable, about each other?”
COVID-19 has been linked to nearly 10,000 deaths in Canada since the start of the pandemic.
Trudeau said it’s “frustrating” to explain to his kids why they won’t be trick-or-treating this year, and why Christmas may look a little bit different.
“My six year old asked me a few weeks ago, ‘Dad, is COVID-19 forever?’ I mean, he’s in Grade One. It was supposed to be his big year as a big boy and they’re not even singing in his classroom,” Trudeau said, of discussions with his son Hadrien.
Trudeau emphasized the need to “do the right things” and “lean on each other” to get through the pandemic. He acknowledged that the government response is “not always going to be perfect” but promised a light at the end of the tunnel.
“Nobody wanted 2020 to be this way.”
“Vaccines are on the horizon. Spring and summer will come and they will be better than this winter. It’s frustrating to have to go through this situation,” he said. “Nobody wanted 2020 to be this way.”
“This sucks. It really, really does,” he said.
The prime minister acknowledged that mixed messages between different provincial governments’ and local health authorities might be a “little more complicated” but they were preferable, he said, to a “universal” approach that imposed the same tougher measures across the country.
Impacts of the pandemic have not been felt uniformly across Canada.
While seniors have been hit disproportionately hard with outbreaks at long-term care homes, the number of reported cases have been highest in the country’s two most populous provinces, Ontario and Quebec. In Toronto and Montreal, Black people, racial minorities, and people living in poverty and in overcrowded housing have also been hit especially hard by the virus.
Trudeau’s frustrations are shared by other political leaders, including Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
During the premier’s press briefing on Oct. 14, he called COVID-19 an “unfair” situation that has caused people to hurt emotionally and financially during the course of the pandemic.
“This is just a crappy situation, sorry for the language,” he said at the time. “Just a lousy, lousy situation.”
With files from Emma Paling