Canada’s federal health minister ‘cautiously optimistic’ about easing some COVID-19 restrictions

Despite some pockets of severe activity, Canadians are succeeding at flattening the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s federal health minister, Patty Hajdu, said Thursday.

The data she sees on a daily basis is trending in the right direction for the country and she is “cautiously optimistic,” about the move to reopen businesses and ease restrictions in many provinces.

In an interview with CBC Thunder Bay, she acknowledged that many people are eager to go back to normal life, but said it will bea new normal.”

“I think it’s still going to take a lot of work on all of our behalf to be thoughtful about how we interact and how we protect ourselves and our families while we see increasing sort of social freedoms.”

More than 4,400 Canadians have died and over 64,000 have tested positive for COVID-19, but Hadju, who is also the MP for Thunder Bay–Superior North, said she is drawing “real hope” from recent polls showing the evolution of young peoples’ attitudes around the Coronavirus.

Findings of new poll on physical distancing ‘heartwarming’

Initially, younger people “had a harder time following the social distancing requests of public health” said Hajdu as she discussed new polling that she finds “so heartwarming.”

According to the poll, young people are adhering to physical distancing protocols, not out of fear for their own health, but because they are “‘worried about their elders, they’re worried about their parents and their grandparents.”

But the health of the elderly remains a major concern, with statistics showing the majority of deaths in Canada have occurred in long-term care homes.

‘I think there needs to be a broader conversation about long-term care,” said Hajdu. “There’s something broken in the way that we deliver care for seniors across the country and there is, I would say, a very unequal way of spending our last years…and I think we have to do better.”

Mental health services ‘critical need’ moving forward

The toll the pandemic and its associated physical distancing is taking on people’s mental health is also a concern for Hajdu, and she is looking for more work to be done in that area. She said the federal government has been transferring money to the provinces and territories to boost their capacity to provide these services.

“A critical need moving forward is that we have more, and a diverse variety of things, for people to use because we know that one size does not fit all in this regard.”

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