Blanchet, O'Toole return to Parliament, urge Canadians to guard against COVID-19

OTTAWA — A sombre Yves-Francois Blanchet reflected Wednesday on his own experience with COVID-19, saying he was lucky to have caught a mild case of the illness but that many Canadians are not so fortunate.

The Bloc Québécois leader made the comments as he and Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole returned to Parliament Hill after being diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this month.

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Both underscored the responsibility that Canadians have to keep their guard up against the illness, which has so far infected more than 158,000 people in the country — and left 9,200 dead.

Blanchet, whose wife also tested positive for COVID-19, made a point of focusing attention on those who have died as he was asked during a news conference what it was like to have had the illness.

"Some people go through it much more painfully than I did," he said. "I was very, very, very lucky. Some people die of that thing."

He went on to state that while there is "no absolute protection" from COVID-19, all Canadians have a responsibility to keep up their guard against it to protect those who might be at risk of serious illness.

"There is only ways to reduce the probability of catching the thing and giving it to somebody that might be more vulnerable to it," he said. "And for that very reason, we must be very, very careful."

O'Toole made similar comments ahead of a meeting with members of his caucus Wednesday morning, after he and his wife Rebecca also tested positive this month.

"We all have to be very cautious," he said. "We're in a second wave in Ontario and Quebec, in particular. So we must stay cautious. I've been working with public health about coming back. I'm excited, I feel good."

Ontario alone reported 625 new cases of COVID-19 and four new deaths Wednesday, with new modelling predicting that the province could see 1,000 new cases each day by the first half of October.

O'Toole rose in the House of Commons to applause as he put his first question to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as Opposition leader.

"Seeing him in good health, seeing the leader of the Bloc Québécois back in the House as well, is a good thing," Trudeau said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 30, 2020.

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