OTTAWA — Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland shared a moving message to Canada’s seniors at a daily press conference with public health officials on the coronavirus pandemic Friday.
“I’ve been thinking about you a lot,” Freeland said in a sparsely populated room in Parliament’s West Block. “You raised us. You built our amazing country. Now you are staying inside and you are physically separated from your loved ones.”
She said she knows the situation is hard for many people.
“I want you to know that we love you very much. And we are doing everything in our power to keep you safe.”
Watch: PM says better data on COVID-19 in Canada is on its way. Story continues below video.
Freeland’s message comes a day after a leading health columnist, The Globe and Mail’s André Picard, warned people to pull their relatives from seniors’ homes if they can.
Citing how COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in at least 600 seniors’ residences across the country, Picard warned, “This is a wildfire that could soon grow far worse.”
Pinecrest Nursing Home, a long-term care home in Bobcaygeon, Ont., has become a case study in how fast the highly contagious respiratory disease can spread. As of Friday, 20 residents have died at the 65-bed facility in just over two weeks. The virus also claimed the life of Jean Pollock, who wasn’t a resident at the facility.
Pollock visited her 91-year-old husband, a resident at Pinecrest, every day and volunteered at the nursing home, according to CBC News.
There are 11,747 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada as of Friday morning, according to Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam. At least 152 deaths have been linked to the disease.
Symptoms include cough, fever, difficulty breathing, and pneumonia in both lungs. The disease is spread through the respiratory droplets from an infected person.
Enhanced testing coming, Ontario health minister says
Canadians have been told to respect physical distancing, from staying at home as much as possible to keeping a two-metre distance from people in public. Crowd control measures have also been widely adopted across the country, from bans on public gatherings to limits on the number of people who can shop in grocery stores at one time.
Public health officials have said a majority of people who get COVID-19 recover and do not need hospitalization. But because the prevalence of pre-existing conditions is higher among seniors, they are considered at a higher risk of contracting potentially life-threatening pneumonia associated with the disease.
In Ontario, there have been 1,047 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among people over age 60 since January 15, according to statistics released by the province. The case fatality rate of those who contract the disease is significantly higher for people over 80.
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott told reporters Friday it’s not realistic that every long-term care home resident will be released into their care of family.
“Most people will remain in homes,” she said.
The health minister offered reassurance saying that the province is taking the situation facing seniors very seriously. “We are really trying to build that iron ring of protection around them.”
Enhanced testing measures are coming, Elliott said, adding that incoming strict no-visitor rules may be difficult for some family members to accept.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.