Coronavirus: Canadian Parliament shut, Trudeau quarantined

Canadian authorities advise cancellations of major events and are cautioning against unnecessary travel.

Trudeau Corona
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised aid to the entirety of Canada [File: Dave Chan/AFP]

Canada shut down Parliament and advised against all nonessential travel outside the country while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau governed remotely from his home, in self-imposed quarantine after his wife tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Dr Theresa Tam, the chief public health officer, also advised more social distancing, and no handshakes or kisses.

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The Canadian government is advising the cancellation of all large events such as concerts. Transport Minister Marc Garneau said cruise ships with more than 500 people will not be able to dock in Canada until July 1.

Overseas flights returning to Canada will also be restricted to a small number of airports in the country.

Canada’s House of Commons voted to shut down for at least five weeks to help ensure lawmakers do not contribute to the spread of the virus.

The moves came a day after Trudeau’s wife tested positive for the virus after returning from the United Kingdom. The prime minister himself has been in self-imposed quarantine. Trudeau said on Friday that his wife has mild flu-like symptoms but is doing fine. He said neither he nor their three children are showing symptoms.

More than 5,000 people have died and over 137,000 are infected globally, according to the World Health Organization. Nearly 70,000 victims have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the virus.

All parties in the Parliament of Canada agreed to the suspension, which means lawmakers will miss two weeks of sessions since they had previously planned to be away next week and two weeks in April. The House is scheduled to next meet on Monday, April 20.

Local residents wear protective face masks on the streets of Lagos, Nigeria, on Friday, Feb. 28, 2020. Nigerian health authorities said they’re tracing everyone who’s been in contact with an Italian m
The pandemic has been found across the world, prompting closures of borders and entire cities [George Osodi/Bloomberg]

“This just shows you how seriously our government and members of the house are taking this,” Government House leader Pablo Rodriguez said.

Part of the deal for closing Parliament for five weeks was ratifying the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the new version of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Rodriguez said lawmakers have passed legislation to ratify the USMCA, and the Senate is expected to follow suit later Friday.

The suspension of the House of Commons means the federal budget won’t be presented March 30 as Finance Minister Bill Morneau had promised.

Rodriguez said the federal budget will be announced at a later date.

Trudeau was spending Friday in briefings, phone calls and virtual meetings from home, including speaking with other world leaders and joining a special Cabinet committee discussion on the coronavirus. 

Trudeau spoke with US President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday. But Trudeau did cancel an in-person meeting with Canada’s provincial premiers.

The prime minister planned to address the nation later Friday, according to his office.

Trudeau himself had not been tested because he was not showing symptoms, his office said. The doctor’s advice to the prime minister is to continue daily activities while self-monitoring.

Trudeau said his government will likely recommend that Canadians avoid travelling outside the country except for essential purposes.

“We are going to be able to get through this if everyone is going to follow the advice of our medical professionals and experts,” Trudeau said to the CBC.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies