Welcome the unvaccinated and let life return to normal, says Erin O’Toole

OTTAWA – It’s time to accept that some Canadians will never be vaccinated against COVID-19 and find a workaround instead of defaulting to lockdowns, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said Thursday.

With most of the population vaccinated, Canada should be able to manage a semblance of normal life using rapid tests and better access to personal protective equipment, O’Toole said at a press conference in Ottawa.

“That’s not to say that I don’t think people shouldn’t be vaccinated. This means that we have to face the reality that there will be a small number of unvaccinated, ”he said.

Currently, nearly 80% of the Canadian population is considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19, although the first doses continue to be given daily, including to children aged five to 11, who do not. became eligible only at the end of last year.

Widespread vaccination mandates are in place, but new rules will be implemented in the coming days as the most transmissible Omicron variant lashes across the country.

Among them, a requirement from next week for cross-border truckers to present proof of vaccination, an approach according to O’Toole that risks thousands of job losses and new problems in the supply chain.

There must be a way to accommodate people like them that also preserves public health, he said, such as greater use of rapid tests.

O’Toole lambasted the government for the speed with which it is putting faster tests in the hands of Canadians.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Wednesday that 140 million rapid tests will be shipped to provinces this week, after 35 million tests were delivered last month.

By December, Ottawa had ordered 95 million tests, and O’Toole noted that provinces cited a lack of tests to delay going back to school this month, raising questions about whether the federal offer actually responds to provincial demand.

Delaying the start of in-person school is one of many public health measures reimposed as cases rise due to the Omicron strain.

Hospitalization rates are also increasing, and data suggests that Canadians who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 are more likely to be hospitalized if they are infected.

In British Columbia, for example, people who were not fully vaccinated accounted for only 16.2% of COVID-19 cases reported between December 28 and January 3, but accounted for 51.4% of hospitalizations during the same period .

The main reason for the new restrictions is the need to protect health care capacity.

O’Toole did not respond directly when asked on Thursday why people who have chosen not to be vaccinated should be accommodated when their hospitalization rates place increased restrictions on Canadians vaccinated.

Instead, he accused Trudeau of sowing division by making vaccination a political issue since the federal election campaign last summer.

“If I thought this was a way to increase immunization levels, I would have taken this approach during the election,” he said.

O’Toole also said the federal government’s failures to provide rapid tests, personal protective equipment and effective contact tracing mean that provinces have no choice but to force shutdowns of businesses and tell people to ask for federal economic assistance.

“It funds blockages rather than funding tools to help us maintain a certain balance here,” he said.

The Liberals said Thursday that O’Toole was the one supporting the lockdowns.

The office of Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos stressed that the Conservatives oppose mandatory vaccine requirements for federal workers and travelers, as well as for Members of Parliament on Parliament Hill, although ‘they agreed to respect them.

“By opposing these measures, including for his own deputies, Mr. O’Toole effectively supports the continuation of the blockages,” said a statement from the Duclos office.

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