As Canada continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, officials say this week will be “critical” in the country’s fight against the outbreak.

“This is a really critical week in our fight against the coronavirus,” Canada’s deputy prime minister, Chrystia Freeland, said at a press conference on Monday, urging Canadians to continue physical distancing.

“I know that it is hard, but we all must stay strong and stay at home unless we are doing essential work like stocking the shelves in our grocery stores, like working on the frontlines of our health-care system.”

Freeland’s remarks echoed those from Canada’s chief public health officer, who on Sunday said this week would be “very, very important” to understand trends in the pandemic and to determine whether physical distancing has been effective.

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Dr. Theresa Tam said she would be keeping an eye on what’s happening in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta — where there has been community transmission of COVID-19 — to see if there has been a drop in new cases, like what has been reported in B.C.

Across the country, federal and provincial health officials have banned large gatherings, closed non-essential businesses and advised Canadians to practise physical distancing to limit the spread of COVID-19.

On Friday, health officials in B.C. released modelling that showed the province’s rate of increase in cases had dropped from about 24 per cent to 12 per cent.

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