Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wished Donald Trump a “safe and speedy recovery” from COVID-19 Friday, and offered a reminder that thousands of Canadians are in the exact same boat as the U.S. president.
At a press conference in Ottawa, Trudeau said he and his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, had Trump and First Lady Melania Trump in their thoughts. The U.S. president revealed in the wee hours of Friday morning that both he and his wife had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Trudeau said the Trumps “certainly reached out when Sophie got her diagnosis earlier in the spring.” Grégoire Trudeau made a full recovery in late March.
Earlier: Trudeau veers to Canada when asked about Trump’s threats to protesters
“But let’s not forget,” the prime minister stressed, that thousands of Canadians also received a positive diagnosis of COVID-19 Thursday. Parts of the country are grappling with a so-called second wave of cases, particularly in the populous provinces of Quebec and Ontario. There were 14,866 active cases across the country, as of Oct. 1, according to government data.
“People are challenged with this every single day across our country and our responsibility as a government is to do everything we can to support them and to arrest the spread of COVID-19, and that will continue to be our priority,” he said.
Though the prime minister dodged a question about whether he thought Trump’s diagnosis could escalate the White House’s management of the pandemic, he later found himself pressed again about Trump’s dismissiveness of the dangers of COVID-19. Trump told his supporters at an Ohio campaign rally last week the virus “affects virtually nobody,” hours before that country’s death toll from the pandemic topped 200,000.
Asked if he thought Trump’s diagnosis would spur the president to take the pandemic threat more seriously, possibly leading to the reopening of the Canada-U.S. border, Trudeau said he “obviously” wants to see the virus under control around the world.
“That’s how we’ve been acting as part of the international vaccine initiatives, part of doing our part to get this virus under control in Canada and we’ve seen other countries do different things,” he said.
Last week, the federal government pledged to spend $440 million on an international program which seeks to ensure COVID-19 vaccines will be accessible to more than just the wealthiest countries. The U.S. opted not to join the global initiative.
The prime minister acknowledged this is all playing out in the context of a heated U.S. election, where he said stances on COVID-19 have become a “polarized political issue.” Canada is “extremely lucky” that hasn’t been the case on this side of the border, he said.
“There has been a concerted effort across orders of government, across political parties to work together, to be there for Canadians, and to get this virus under control,” he said. “We’re certainly going to continue with that in Canada and we recommend it as a path for people all around the world.”
While it’s true all parties voted unanimously this week to pass legislation to provide new COVID-19 relief benefits for those left unemployed or underemployed by the pandemic, the government has faced sharp criticism over its handling of the pandemic. Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner, for instance, repeatedly accused Trudeau in question period Thursday of “costing Canadians their lives and their jobs” by not doing more to deliver rapid COVID-19 tests.
The prime minister also told reporters that measures at the border, put in place in March to ban non-essential travel, are making a difference. Though the second wave is showing community transmission remains the biggest challenge, he said, the “importation of cases from outside the country is a tiny fraction of the situation, which means that what we’re doing is working and we need to continue.”
Liberal ministers later revealed that grandparents, siblings and adult children of Canadians and permanent residents will soon be exempted from border restrictions.
Trudeau was not the only Canadian political leader to wish Trump well with his recovery. Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, who recently recovered from COVID-19, tweeted Friday that he and his wife, who likewise contracted the virus, know what the U.S. president and his wife are going through.
Tory House Leader Gerard Deltell also kicked off question period Friday by wishing a speedy recovery for the U.S. president and his wife, sparking applause from MPs.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who was sharply critical of Trump when the U.S. reimposed a 10 per cent tariff on Canadian raw aluminium in August, told reporters Friday he “wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.”