Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has created a new cabinet committee to deal with the novel coronavirus outbreak, which began in China but now has spread around the world.
“We need to make sure that people make the right decisions. That’s why we put forward a committee that will be responsible for ensuring that Canadians have the right frame to make the good decisions for their families, for their communities,” Trudeau said in an appearance in St-Jerome, Que., north of Montreal.
“We need to keep alert, but we need to keep moving forward in a way that keeps Canadians safe and keeps our economy rolling.”
The COVID-19 committee is meant to complement the work being done by the government’s incident response group, Trudeau said. That group often includes top permanent officials in addition to politicians.
The cabinet committee will continue to monitor the health impacts of the virus to make sure the government response takes all possible measures to prevent and limit the spread in Canada, Trudeau said.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland chairs the group; Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos is vice-chair.
The other members include Industry Minister Navdeep Bains, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, Health Minister Patty Hajdu, Economic Development Minister Melanie Joly, Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough.
Kirsty Duncan, deputy leader of the government in the House of Commons, will also be a “core participant.” Duncan is a medical geographer who studied and lectured on pandemics before she was elected to parliament, and wrote a book on her studies of the 1918 Spanish flu. She also was minister of science for a time.
Trudeau said the government has been watching the global impact of the virus on the economy closely.
“We’re seeing that in terms of tourism there’s an impact, there’s an impact on investment, on the airline industry, on the auto industry as well. We’re seeing a slowdown,” he said.
He pointed to supply-chain disruptions in China affecting Canadian businesses as well.
“There will be an impact and we’re there to try to find solutions together with companies and communities.”
The risk of community transmission of the virus and its accompanying respiratory disease, COVID-19, is still considered low in Canada, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Canada now has 33 cases of the new coronavirus, most of them in Ontario.
But globally, the number of countries detecting new cases increases by the day, and the virus is circulating in several of those countries, including the United States.
There are now at least 90,870 confirmed cases in 72 countries, including nearly 3,000 deaths, according to the latest numbers released by the World Health Organization.
Laura Osman, The Canadian Press