Canada army not needed right now to help combat coronavirus spread – Trudeau

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference at Rideau Cottage as efforts continue to help slow the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada March 29, 2020. REUTERS/Blair Gable

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada is not planning for the moment to use troops to help combat a spreading coronavirus outbreak, although the option remains on the table, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Sunday.

All 10 provinces have declared states of emergency and ordered people to stay home. The number of cases rose to 5,866 from 5,655 on Saturday while the death toll is 63, up from 61, medical officials said.

The province of Quebec – where 8.5 million people are spread across a landmass the size of western Europe – on Saturday said it was restricting access to eight remote regions with often patchy access to healthcare.

Quebec is also stationing police on the border with the United States to ensure returning travellers know they must go into isolation.

Trudeau was non-committal when asked about deploying troops to help Quebec or other provinces.

“This situation is evolving constantly and we are prepared for all kinds of different situations. Of course Canadians know very well that members of the armed forces are always ready to help when they are needed,” he said.

“For the time being no one has made specific requests about this and there are no plans now to carry out operations in Canada with the armed forces,” he told a daily briefing, later adding that “we are not closing the door to any scenario”.

Almost half the people with coronavirus are in Quebec, where Premier Francois Legault said on Sunday that the incidence of new cases appeared to be stabilizing. “Don’t give up,” he exhorted people who might be fed up with staying indoors.

Trudeau also said Ottawa would spend more than C$200 million ($145 million) on additional help for vulnerable people such as the homeless, women and children fleeing violence and counselling services for the young.

Trudeau was speaking outside his residence, where he has been staying since his wife Sophie tested positive for coronavirus.

Sophie, who announced on Saturday she had received the all clear, has moved to the prime minister’s official summer residence across the river in Quebec with the couple’s three children, Trudeau said.

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