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Canada, U.S. in touch 'almost daily' in coronavirus battle: minister

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, March 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

WASHINGTON — Canada’s foreign affairs minister says the federal government and the United States are working together and communicating on an “almost daily” basis in their shared efforts to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus north of the border.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne says Canada’s science-first approach is part of a collective bid among so-called “Five Eyes” security partners to protect North America from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Critics in the U.S., however, fear President Donald Trump and members of his administration are more focused on managing the political fallout than the crisis itself.

All eyes today are on the California coast, where the Grand Princess cruise ship carrying more than 3,500 passengers from around the world, including 237 Canadians, is scheduled to dock in Oakland to offload its human cargo for treatment and quarantine.

While healthy Canadian passengers will be flown to a military base in Trenton, Ont., for a 14-day quarantine, it remains unclear how those who test positive for the virus will be handled.  

There are currently 580 active cases in the U.S. and 22 people have died, while B.C. health officials announced the first death in Canada today.

“It’s science first,” Champagne told a conference call earlier Monday.

“We have been guided by science, we have been guided by the World Health Organization advisory and we’re continuing to work with our Five Eyes partners,” which include the U.S., the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. 

Canada is working closely with the U.S. on dealing with the cruise ship passengers “to make sure that not only do we protect the health and safety of Canadians both at home and abroad, but we also are mindful of how we can protect North America from the threat of the virus,” he added.  

“I would say our relationship and our interaction (with the U.S.) is going well — it’s almost daily at all levels of government — to make sure that we protect the safety of all Canadians.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 9, 2020.

The Canadian Press