Canada has unveiled aggressive new measures to contain the outbreak; shutting down parliament and advising against foreign travel, even as Justin Trudeau urged citizens to remain calm in a national address delivered from self-imposed quarantine. He told the nation:
We have an outstanding public health authorities who are doing an outstanding job. We will get through this together.
Trudeau, whose wife has been confirmed as having contracted the virus, said he remained symptom free.
Of course, [working from home] is an inconvenience and somewhat frustrating. We are all social beings after all. But 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.
Officials announced a raft of new measures including closing parliament for five weeks and redirecting incoming international flights to a small number of airports as part of enhanced screening measures.
The government also announced it will ban cruise ships with 500 people from docking in the country’s ports until 1 July – but stopped short of closing the borders. Canada’s health minister, Patty Hajdu, said:
Borders don’t stop travellers. Travellers find other ways into countries. Travellers become less honest. Canada’s approach from the very beginning has been to use science and evidence.
Instead, the government has asked Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside the country and to limit contact with crowds. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said:
Social distancing is an important contribution that everyone can make to our control efforts. This means avoiding crowded places and non-essential gatherings, considering shopping or taking public transport in off-peak hours and greeting one another with a wave or elbow instead of a handshake, kiss or hug.
The actions you take today will save lives. This is a serious public health threat, and a crisis as well as an emergency.
Officials in Toronto, the country’s largest city, announced the closure of all child care facilities, public libraries and community centres. They also announced the surprise cancellation of all spring break camps and urged residents to reconsider taking public transit.
Experts cautioned that no clear blueprints yet exist on now to stem the spread of the virus— but that certain measures have shown degrees of success. Dr Susy Hota, an infectious disease specialist and the medical director of prevention and control at Toronto’s university health network, said:
There’s no complete science behind any of it really — but it’s worthwhile to explore different ways of trying to control things. That’s where the social distancing makes sense to consider doing it early and trying to reduce the overall impact on everybody.
Plans to close off Catalonia have been announced by the northeastern Spanish region’s president, Quim Torra, who called on the central government to help by authorising the closure of ports, airports and railways.
The evolution of the contagion calls for most drastic action. We need to restrict entry and exit to protect ourselves.
While Catalonia is one of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions, major transport hubs come under the mandate of the central government.
His call, which would affect Catalonia’s 7.5 million residents, came hours after the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said that a national state of emergency would be declared on Saturday. And, in Madrid, the regional president Isabel Díaz Ayuso recommended that residents not leave their homes.
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