Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a news conference at Rideau cottage in Ottawa, on Friday, March 13, 2020. Trudeau got thanks from Canada’s premiers Friday for $11-billion in federal funding to confront the health and economic impact of the rapidly spreading novel coronavirus — but heard that much more will be needed to weather the crisis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

Border closures, mandatory screening up for discussion amid COVID-19, Trudeau says

Trudeau’s wife Sophie was diagnosed with COVID-19 following a trip to the U.K.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says nothing is off the table when it comes to the next phase of Canada’s response to the spread of COVID-19.

Trudeau told CTV’s Question Period this morning that a discussion about border closures or mandatory screening of all returning travellers will be part of a cabinet meeting today.

The government signalled to Canadians abroad on Saturday that they need to come home or risk getting stuck in the dozens of countries now cancelling international flights and shutting down borders in a bid to stop the rampant global march of the virus.

Trudeau said that the countries that did implement stricter border controls after the outbreak began in China have not cut themselves off from the virus, and the monitoring efforts in Canada have been working to hold back a spike in cases.

“We were able to track people, we were able to contain the virus at that point. We’re going to continue trusting our public health officials,” he said in an interview from outside his home, where he and his family remain in self-isolation following his wife’s diagnosis with the illness.

“But of course we are hearing the concerns people have had. The shift in posture from the United States of course gives us significant things to think about and we will be discussing it later today among other measures at our cabinet meeting.”

U.S. President Donald Trump has implemented travel bans to his country from Europe, creating chaos at U.S. airports that’s also being seen in Canada.

Travellers returning to Canada have reported long lines at airports with what appear to be minimal precautions being taken to slow the spread of the virus and the government is being questioned on why only those returning from known hot spots are being grilled about their health.

Trudeau said many of those who have faced minimal screening so far aren’t coming from areas of concern, and public health resources are best directed out into the community, not at airports.

He suggested, however, that changes are coming.

“That is in the process of happening, I’ve heard directly from our public security officials and CBSA who are bringing in new measures right now,” Trudeau said, when asked about implementing mandatory screening for all, but did not provide further detail.

Trudeau’s wife Sophie was diagnosed with COVID-19 following a trip to the U.K. He said she continues to recover and currently has a headache but it’s not worse than a bad cold.

While other world leaders, including Trump, have been tested as a result of being in close contact with those who have the virus, Trudeau said the advice he has received is that the test would be wasted on him.

“The advice of our best public health experts is it’s not worthwhile to test someone who is not showing symptoms, if it were to come back negative it wouldn’t mean anything because I am in isolation right now and need to remain in isolation and that uses up a testing kit that would be better suited for someone who is showing symptoms who should be tested.”

Trudeau said the money his government allocated last week is also meant to ensure there are enough testing kits and other medical equipment available for those who need it.

Most people diagnosed with COVID-19 experience mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, and the vast majority of those who contract the virus recover. The Public Health Agency of Canada says the risk to the general population is low.

However, for some, including Canadians aged 65 and over, those with compromised immune systems and those with pre-existing conditions, the illness can be much more severe. Among the Canadians diagnosed with the illness so far, fewer than 15 per cent have required hospitalization.

The growing number of cases has prompted widespread closures of schools and universities, mass cancellation of large-scale events, multimillion-dollar economic stimulus packages from governments, and the suspension of the Parliament until April 20.

READ MORE: 39 new cases bring Canada’s COVID-19 count to at least 288

READ MORE: Music industry feeling the effects of COVID-19 pandemic

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press


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