OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's health minister on Tuesday said she could not rule out another full lockdown if needed amid a surge in new COVID-19 cases, but added that the government was significantly more prepared to manage the virus than during the first wave.
Patty Hajdu's comments followed a pledge she made late Monday to take a "surgical approach" to tackling outbreaks. Canada reported 1,351 new cases on Sept. 14, the highest single daily addition since May 1, amid school reopenings and flare-ups tied to group gatherings.
"We see those numbers rising, but a full economic shutdown would be very difficult for this country. Not to rule it out, because ... listen we will protect the health of Canadians and we will do what it takes," Hajdu told reporters on Tuesday.
Hajdu added that Canada has made "significant improvements" in the healthcare system, and is better prepared with equipment and supplies than it was during the first wave in the spring.
"That will allow us to manage this next stage," she said.
Hajdu earlier said that Canada was at the stage where it would employ a more targeted approach to combating COVID-19, citing the need to work with provinces and regions to tackle localized outbreaks without hurting healthy communities.
"I think a massive shutdown for a province or for the country, it's very difficult. It's difficult on Canadians," she said late on Monday. "So the work that I'm doing right now is to try and support that more surgical approach."
Canada's provinces and territories are responsible for introducing health restrictions, though Canada could use emergency laws to impose a nationwide lockdown if deemed necessary.
(Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)