Sports no longer an escape as COVID-19 paralyzes leagues around the world
OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is advising Canadians to curtail all non-essential international travel, on account of the still rapidly spreading COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking to Canadians from outside Rideau Gate, Trudeau said that additional screening measures are being implemented at airports, and a “significant” fiscal stimulus package will be coming within days.
He said his biggest preoccupation at the moment is ensuring that Canadians take seriously public health advice, but not panic.
Trudeau is also reassuring Canadians that he has no symptoms, is “feeling good” and will continue to work from home. Later today he is speaking with the premiers and Indigenous leaders.
"Addressing COVID-19 must be a team Canada effort. To keep Canadians safe and to mitigate the economic impacts of the virus, all levels of government are working together," Trudeau said.
The prime minister addressed Canadians after his wife Sophie tested positive for COVID-19 late Thursday. He is going to be in self-isolation for the next 14 days, alongside his family, but will be continuing his duties.
Trudeau said so far, Sophie's symptoms are mild, but they are taking "every precaution," and are thinking about every family in Canada also dealing with a sick loved one.
The prime minister said that while it is "an inconvenience" and "somewhat frustrating," self-isolating is what he has to do.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam, Health Minister Patty Hajdu, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Transport Minister Marc Garneau held a press conference to update Canada’s response to the novel coronavirus just before Trudeau's address.
Hajdu said that Canada is in a "critical window of opportunity" to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. Garneau said that Canada's cruise season is being postponed and overseas international flights coming into Canada will be restricted to a smaller number of airports.
The federal cabinet met early Friday morning on Parliament Hill, led by Trudeau via teleconference. On her way in, Hajdu said that Trudeau is following public health advice.
House of Commons suspends until April 20
The House of Commons has agreed to suspend its sitting until April 20, shutting down parliamentary business in an effort to limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic on Parliament Hill.
MPs adjourned Friday's sitting after unanimously passing the cross-party agreement.
The terms of the suspension of the House include:
- An agreement that the House of Commons passes the new NAFTA deal and the interim supply funds to keep the business of government rolling, into the Senate;
- Allowing the government to spend money to address the novel coronavirus, and potentially address an economic downturn, with oversight of the Auditor General and opposition parties;
- An understanding that the House could extend its suspension past April 20 and House committees could be reconvened in the interim if necessary;
- Passing, on division, the latest NDP opposition day motion calling for national pharmacare; and
- Committing to regularly update representatives from the opposition parties on the status of COVID-19 response efforts.
The suspension is to last five weeks, meaning the federal budget, scheduled to be unveiled on March 30, will not be able to be tabled in the House of Commons, though Morneau’s office says it has not yet been officially postponed.
Speaking with reporters after suspending the House, Government House Leader Pablo Rodriguez called it "the right thing to do," and an indication of how serious the federal government is taking the novel coronavirus pandemic.
"The priority for the government, and for all members in this House is the health and the safety of all Canadians," Rodriguez said, backed by Conservative, Bloc Quebecois, and New Democrat MPs.
The Senate was recalled on Friday after adjourning for their March break, to deal with the new NAFTA bill C-4, and the supply measures passed by the House. Senators are currently awaiting Royal Assent, happening Friday afternoon, before likely also adjourning for an extended period.
Deliberations between political leaders and House officials had been ongoing for days and through Thursday night, weighing whether to suspend the House, or if additional precautions including more cleaning and cancelling international travel would be sufficient.
Several federal politicians are now in self-isolation, most out of an abundance of caution. Public access to the Senate has been cut off, and the House of Commons has closed visitor access to the House and cancelled tours, suspended all committee travel, and is calling off all functions in the parliamentary precinct.
The decision to shut down public access to the House was taken by the Board of Internal Economy, the governing body of the House.
"The Board is taking these measures to help ensure a healthy and safe work environment on the House of Commons precinct and to protect individuals who may be at risk for more severe complications from COVID-19," said Speaker of the House of Commons Anthony Rota in a statement.