Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said there are “very good chances” that most Canadians will be able to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by next September, as new infections surged in the country’s most populous province.
Speaking to reporters in the capital, Ottawa, on Friday, Trudeau said his government is working closely with provinces and territories to prepare for a vaccine roll-out.
He also named the Canadian army’s Major-General Dany Fortin, who previously led NATO forces in Iraq, to head a national operations centre that will coordinate the country’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan.
“Canada is well prepared for large-scale roll-outs of vaccines, but this will be the biggest immunisation in the history of the country. We must reach everyone who wants a vaccine no matter where they live,” Trudeau said.
COVID-19 has surged in recent weeks across Canada, with several regions putting stricter travel restrictions in place and closing non-essential businesses and services to try to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The province of Ontario – home to more than 14 million people – recorded 1,855 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, its highest single-day tally since the start of the pandemic, as well as 20 additional deaths linked to the virus.
Toronto, the country’s largest city, and the nearby Peel Region went into lockdown this week amid an uptick in new infections, barring in-person dining and shuttering non-essential stores, among other measures.
Canada’s top public health officer, Dr Theresa Tam, said there has been a “troubling rise” in the number of people experiencing severe illnesses due to COVID-19.
She said during a news conference on Friday that the provinces of Quebec, Ontario and Alberta account for approximately 75 percent of new daily cases.
“Continued spread of COVID-19 puts a strain on healthcare and essential services,” Tam said.
Canadian health officials said earlier this week that the first vaccine could be approved as early as December, in line with expectations in the United States and Europe, local media reported.