Canada will not rule out border closures, mandatory isolation to fight coronavirus

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday said he would not rule out closing the nation’s borders or forcing people arriving from abroad to go into self-isolation to help combat a coronavirus outbreak.

Asked whether Canada might shut its frontiers to Europe or the United States, Trudeau told CTV: “We have taken some very strong measures and we are not taking anything off the table.”

So far at least 249 Canadians have tested positive and one person has died.

Canada, acting on the advice of health experts, has already boosted monitoring at airports and is urging its citizens to return from abroad while they still can.

“We’re going to continue trusting our public health officials but of course we’re hearing the concern people have had. The shift in posture in the United States of course gives us significant things to think about,” said Trudeau.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a coronavirus aid package on Saturday that would provide free testing and paid sick leave.

Closing borders could have a major economic impact, given that Canada sends 75% of its goods exports to the United States.

All 10 of Canada’s provinces have now reported cases of coronavirus, many linked to foreign travel.

Asked whether people visiting from abroad might be obliged to go into isolation, Trudeau replied: “We are considering everything … every step of the way we have, and we will, do the things necessary to keep Canadians safe.”

The Liberal government will make significant fiscal announcements early next week to help Canadians and businesses hit by the outbreak, he added. Ottawa has already said it will do whatever it takes to protect vulnerable people and firms.

The government is mulling a multibillion-dollar package for industries most hit by the outbreak, including airlines, a source directly familiar with the matter told Reuters on Friday.

Trudeau, asked about instances of Canadians panic buying foodstuffs and toilet paper, said supply chains were intact and groceries would continue to arrive.

“Not panicking about anything is going to be really important,” he said.

Trudeau spoke from his residence, where he is in self-isolation after his wife Sophie tested positive for coronavirus. Trudeau said he and his three children were “doing fine”, while Sophie had a headache and was feeling “under the weather”.

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