OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is pledging direct financial support to Canadians and says his government will bring in additional steps to stem the spread of COVID-19, including restricting incoming international flights to Canada.
Trudeau addressed Canadians outside Rideau Cottage, a two-storey red brick house on the grounds of Rideau Hall where he lives with his family. The prime minister is in isolation after his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday.
“On my doctor’s recommendation, I will remain in self-isolation for 14 days. I want to be clear, I have no symptoms and I’m feeling good, and technology allows me to work from home,” Trudeau said. Working remotely is ″somewhat frustrating,” he added.
“We have to do this because we have to protect our neighbours and our friends, especially our more vulnerable seniors, and people with pre-existing conditions,” he said. “We are following medical advice, as should all Canadians.”
COVID-19 is a new coronavirus disease that can cause mild to severe lung infections. There is currently no vaccine for it. The federal government is currently focused on limiting its spread. New measures were announced Friday, including:
- Recommending Canadians cancel or postpone all non-essential travel outside the country
- Urging foreign travellers to reconsider travel to Canada
- Limiting the number of airports that will receive international overseas flights
- Banning large cruise ships and ferries, those with more than 500 passengers and crew members, from docking in Canada until July 2020
- Enhancing health screening of arriving international passengers at airports
- Encouraging Canadians to practise social distancing, keeping a two-metres distance from other individuals, avoiding shopping and public transit during peak hours and limiting attendance at large gatherings.
“These are significant steps. We will do more,” Trudeau said. “Addressing COVID-19 must be a Team Canada effort.”
The prime minister said he knows Canadians are worried about the potential health and financial impacts of the pandemic. Trudeau promised the government will introduce a “significant fiscal stimulus package” to help Canadians.
“No one should have to worry about paying rent, buying groceries or additional child care because of COVID-19,” he said.
Details of the plan will be announced in the days ahead.
To protect Canadians and businesses, Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced $10 billion in credit will be available to impacted businesses through the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Bank.
Morneau said the credit extension was used to help mitigate the 2008 financial crisis.
“We are very focused on those measures on the first order of business, and we’ll have more to say on that in the future,” he said.
In addition, the Bank of Canada also announced a cut to the overnight interest rate target to 0.75 per cent to buffer economic shocks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz called the unscheduled rate decision a “proactive measure.”
Discussions with U.S. about border are ‘ongoing’: Trudeau
Trudeau told reporters his government will roll out measures to help give Canadians the option and ability to follow the best medical advice and not to report to work if they are ill. Small businesses will also be helped, he said.
Asked if he has spoken with U.S. President Donald Trump about ensuring the border remains open, the prime minister said his officials have worked closely with their U.S. counterparts to “coordinate efforts” at the border.
While conversations with the U.S. are “ongoing,” Trudeau expressed confidence about the ability of both countries to keep their citizens safe.
Trump announced a national emergency in the U.S. Friday over the coronavirus pandemic after the country’s slow response to the outbreak.
More than 15,000 people tested in Canada
Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam told reporters there are now 157 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada, as of midday Friday, and more than 15,000 people had been tested.
Earlier Friday, political parties agreed to suspend Canada’s Parliament until April 20. They sped the adoption of the USMCA trade deal — or new NAFTA — through both chambers, before adjourning.The federal budget, which was set to be delivered March 30, has also been postponed.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu told reporters in Ottawa that she’s been on the phone with her G7 counterparts for updates on measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus globally. Additional measures will be taken each day, she said.
“Let’s be clear, this is a serious public health threat and a crisis, as well as an emergency. And everybody is working as diligently as possible to contain the spread globally.”
Trudeau hasn’t been tested for COVID-19: PMO
Grégoire Trudeau had recently travelled to London, U.K. to take part in WE Day, an arena event that attracts thousands to celebrate community organizers with celebrity speakers.
The lineup of speakers included the prime minister’s mother, Margaret Trudeau. Ella-Grace, the couple’s 11-year-old daughter, also attended WE Day events with her mother. An official told HuffPost Canada the three Trudeau children stayed home Thursday.
Trudeau said he has not been tested for COVID-19 because he is asymptomatic at this time. Following the advice of his doctor after his wife’s positive diagnosis, Trudeau will remain in isolation for 14 days.
As long as he is not showing any symptoms, Trudeau said the medical advice he has received is there is “no value in being tested.” He said there are contingency plans if he should fall ill, as there are for all ministers, but he did not elaborate on what those would be. Cabinet’s order of precedence would suggest that Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland would step into the job..
The government announced $1 billion in new funding Wednesday to help stimulate research towards a vaccine, and to help provinces and territories respond to COVID-19. The World Health Organization officially declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic a day earlier.
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