Coronavirus: Minister says Canadians should come home as more countries lock down

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Canada may not have closed its borders, but Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages Mélanie Joly said Canadian travellers should come home as more countries around the world go into quarantine mode and restrict travel over the novel coronavirus.

“Canadians are at the best when they’re pulling each other together. And that’s exactly what we need right now,” Joly said in an interview with Global News’ Mike Le Couteur on Sunday’s episode of The West Block.

Following the advice of Canadian chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam, Joly said the focus has been on supporting provinces and territories, which all have their own policies when it comes to keeping the virus contained.

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As of Sunday morning, there were 249 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada, including 137 in Ontario.

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Many countries in Europe, like Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, are closing their borders to international travellers and severely restricting movement. France is closing its restaurants. Austria is limiting gatherings of more than five people.

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The United States, too, has banned the entry of foreign nationals who had travelled from China, Iran and will bar entry from all European countries including Ireland and the United Kingdom within a 14-day period in an attempt to slow the spread.

The Trudeau government has updated its travel advisories to “avoid all non-essential travel,” but did stipulate that anyone arriving in Canada from another country must self-isolate for 14 days.

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Joly said Canada will not be closing its borders, but all Canadians abroad still need to come home.

“We know that many countries are going into quarantine mode,” she said, adding that those in need of medical treatment will be best served by the Canadian public health care system.

Joly said “all measures” were being taken to ensure the Canadian government could repatriate citizens who may get stuck in another country amid stricter quarantine measures, but the government’s “main focus” was predicting “Canadians’ health.”

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“We’re in a mode as a government to make sure that all the resources are taken to protect our citizens,” she said.

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To date, Canada has announced it intends to spend more than $12 billion to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. Despite this, premiers around the country have still said they need more help.

When asked how far the federal government could stretch its resources, Joly pointed to several measures taken by Ottawa, including the Bank of Canada lowering its key indicator by one per cent, as well putting more money into research and treatment for the virus.

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Looking ahead, Joly said the government will be announcing liquidities for banks and businesses struggling to make ends meet amidst the pandemic.

“Other measures are on the go, making sure that we’re working to react in a timely fashion to what’s going on in the economy,” she said. “We’ve been working hard with the minister of finance on different measures, and we’ll be announcing them in due time.”

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