Canada's Justin Trudeau in isolation after wife tests positive for Covid-19

Seven of the country's 10 provinces have recorded infections

13 March 2020 - 11:49
By Reuters
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau will be in isolation for 14 days after his wife tested positive for the coronavirus.
Image: REUTERS/John Morris Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau will be in isolation for 14 days after his wife tested positive for the coronavirus.

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau will be in isolation for two weeks after his wife, Sophie, tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday, and the outbreak prompted the province of Ontario to shut schools to limit the spread.

Sophie Gregoire Trudeau recently returned from London and experienced flu-like symptoms, so she was tested for the virus, the prime minister's office said on Thursday. Later, the office said the test had come back positive.

“The prime minister is in good health with no symptoms. As a precautionary measure and following the advice of doctors, he will be in isolation for 14 days,” a  statement said. Sophie will also be in quarantine for 14 days.

“The prime minister will continue to fully assume his duties and will address Canadians tomorrow.”

In a personal note, Sophie said she was “experiencing uncomfortable symptoms of the virus,” adding, “I will be back on my feet soon”.

Canada reported 145 new case of the virus, a three-fold gain from a week ago. There has been one death. Seven of Canada's 10 provinces have recorded infections.

Ontario, the most populous province, reported 17 new cases overnight, a 40% jump. To contain the virus, authorities ordered all schools to close from Saturday to April 5.

Globally, more than 127,000 people have been infected by the sometimes deadly respiratory Covid-19.

In a blow to ice hockey-obsessed Canadians, the National Hockey League suspended its season because of the outbreak, though it said its goal was to resume play “as soon as it is appropriate and prudent,” so teams can compete for the Stanley Cup championship.

With the Canadian dollar at a four-year low against its US counterpart and stock prices plunging, the Bank of Canada announced measures to inject liquidity into the market.

Working from home on Thursday, Trudeau spoke to US President Donald Trump, British PM Boris Johnson and Italian PM Giuseppe Conte, and joined a special cabinet meeting on the coronavirus by phone, his spokesperson said on Twitter.

The Pacific province of British Columbia, north of the US's Washington state, advised against all non-essential foreign travel, including to the US. Washington is one of the worst-affected states.

Any warning that involves the US is politically sensitive, given the two countries' 8,890km shared border and Canada's overwhelming reliance on bilateral trade with its big neighbour.

“This is really important. The evolving situation both in the US and globally is a risk for all of us,” British Columbia's provincial chief medical officer, Bonnie Henry, told reporters.

Alberta's chief medical officer, Deena Hinshaw, banned gatherings of more than 250 people and cancelled all international events. Hinshaw also discouraged foreign travel.

Quebec, which has recorded 13 cases, has banned all indoor events with more than 250 people, and said people returning from any foreign country should self-isolate for 14 days. Health and education public sector workers who travel abroad will be required to self-isolate.

Separately, Canadian authorities cancelled the Juno music awards, Canada's version of the Grammys, and Toronto's annual St Patrick's Day parade was suspended.

Ottawa committed C$1bn on on Wednesday towards bolstering the health-care system and limiting the affect of the virus, while Ontario said on Thursday it had set aside C$100m in “contingency funding.”

On Thursday, Alberta premier Jason Kenney said the public health crisis alone would cost the country “well north of C$10bn" [about R117bn].