Trudeau says ‘knee-jerk reactions’ won’t stop spread of COVID-19

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada won’t ban foreign travellers arriving from countries grappling with COVID-19 outbreaks, adding that “knee-jerk reactions” won’t help to stop the spread of the virus.

Canada’s approach differs from the protocols adopted by some of our closest allies.

U.S. President Donald Trump has claimed the United States is experiencing a low number of infections because it sealed its borders to travellers coming from outbreak-affected countries.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Thursday that coronavirus-related travel bans on foreigners coming from China and Iran will be extended to South Korea.

Australian citizens and permanent residents from those countries can enter Australia, but will be required to self-isolate for two weeks.

Trudeau was asked today if Canada would take similar steps.

“We recognize there are countries that make different decisions. The decisions we make are based on the best recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the tremendous health experts who work within Canada and around the world,” he told reporters after an event in Toronto.

“We know that keeping Canadians safe needs to be done in the right way and we’re going to keep doing things that actually keep Canadians safe. There is a lot of misinformation out there, there is a lot of knee-jerk reaction that isn’t keeping people safe. That is having real, challenging impacts on communities, on community safety.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offers his opinion on how other countries choose to deal with the spread of COVID-19. 0:58

There are now 37 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada: 13 in British Columbia, 22 in Ontario and two in Quebec.

Trudeau said the government’s approach is to inform Canadians on how best to protect their families, and to act on the advice of health experts to develop a response that is “active and up-to-date every step of the way.”

During a briefing with reporters Wednesday, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said again that sealing off borders is not an effective approach to containing the virus. She said border measures work better when they focus on educating travellers about the symptoms, and what they should do if they get sick.

No travel bans

To date, Canada has not imposed any travel bans. Instead, it’s asking travellers returning from Hubei, China — the epicentre of the outbreak — and Iran, where a significant outbreak has occurred, to self-isolate for two weeks after they arrive here.

Global Affairs Canada has issued travel advisories for various countries which are updated regularly to reflect changing risk levels.

“We believe that travellers and Canadians are quite sensitized, so they’re presenting to the health system in a very appropriate way, being fully alerted,” Tam said.

“It’s also a balance for the health system … There has to be some guidance as to how you triage patients going through the health system. The border actually is a great place to tell them which phone numbers to call to call ahead, so that your emergency rooms or your clinics are not inundated should you not be required to show up as well.”

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