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One-on-one with Justin Trudeau: Prime minister talks COVID-19 with NEWS 1130

Last Updated Jan 6, 2021 at 2:03 pm PDT

FILE - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a closing press conference on the third and final day of the Liberal cabinet retreat in Ottawa on Sept. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined NEWS 1130 for an exclusive interview on Wednesday to talk about the unfolding COVID-19 situation across Canada.

Due to the unfolding chaos playing out in the U.S. Capitol, Trudeau was first asked about his comments on the situation. You can read the full story here.

Listen to the full interview between Trudeau and reporter Martin MacMahon below. A full transcript follows.

Travel and COVID-19

Martin: Given the new [coronavirus] variant is out there internationally, would you ever move to turn recommendations against non-essential travel into an outright ban?

Trudeau: “I think we have to remember that Canada has some of the strongest measures protecting ourselves from international importation of COVID of any countries in the world. We’ve had the two-week quarantine in place since last March and that has resulted in extremely low cases of international transmission. We’re talking about under two per cent of cases. So, we are confident that we have strong measures in place and we’ve actually made them stronger in that anyone returning to Canada now is going to have to demonstrate a negative test taken in the days before they boarded the plane. This is coming into effect tonight. This is continuing to keep Canadians safe but, of course, we will continue to make sure we’re doing everything we can to keep Canadians safe particularly given, as you say, the new variants of the virus that are out there.”

Why not pull up the draw bridge for the next few months, given this new variant is out there? We’ve only got a few months until everyone gets the vaccine? How many possible Hawaii trips qualify as essential?

“We are looking at bringing in many more, more measures. Having the testing become mandatory before getting on the plane is a significant, large measure that we’re putting in, but we’re going to continue watching, and monitoring, and doing whatever we need to keep Canadians safe. Like I said, there’s a lot of concern out there right now but I am able to reassure people that the measures we’ve had in place and the measures we’re bringing into place are effective on keeping Canadians safe.”

WHO blocked in China

In the last 24 hours, the World Health Organization has said it’s ‘disappointed’ that China appears to be blocking access to its investigators. What’s your message to China about the need to let these experts do their work?

“There is certainly going to be a time for necessary accountability and understanding how the world ended up plunged into this terrible, terrible situation, and the role that China had to play in this as the origin of the virus is going to need to be known and for China to not cooperate and not participate, and that is unfortunately very predictable given the recent stances by the Chinese government on collaborating with international authorities, but is not going to be able to protect them from making sure that the truth does come out. We will find out how this virus started.”

Will you be pushing China, along with other countries, to provide more information about this and give that proper access to WHO investigators?

“Absolutely. We’re working with partners around the world to continue to put pressure on China on a large range of issues, whether it’s cooperating with international organizations, like the WHO, whether it’s respecting international law, whether it’s not using coercive diplomacy that has two Canadians spend another Christmas in arbitrary detention. These are things that we take very seriously and will continue to work with our partners on.”

Long-term care

Back at home, the situation with long-term care has been described as a national tragedy, perhaps a national shame. We have a facility here, locally, Little Mountain Place, where 41 people have died due to the virus — that’s more than a third of the original residents. How do you feel when you hear those numbers and is there anything further the federal government can do on this file?

“We have been there every step of the way to give supports to the provinces who needed it to get the situation under control. I mean, it’s frustrating, it’s a tragedy, it’s heartbreaking to see these stories. It is something that the federal government wants to help on. We respect provincial jurisdictions — it is provincial responsibilities over these long-term care homes — but we have sent extra resources, we’ve been there with the Red Cross and the Canadian Armed Forces in places that needed them. We’re going to continue to work as partners.

“Just in terms of sharing best practices and making sure that as a first step we’re protecting elders and the people who built this country, we’re always going to be there to do more and I think Canadians are demanding that all orders of government work together to make sure that we’re protecting seniors.”

COVID App

I wanted to quickly ask about the systems in place for alerting people that they’ve been exposed to the virus. You’ve been a champion of the COVID Alert App. Our province’s top doctor, Bonnie Henry, however, seems uninterested in using it here, at least in its current form. Are you disappointed with our province’s position on the app and the fact people here aren’t able to use it?

“I think we’re in a situation where people should be able to use all the tools they possibly can to keep themselves safe and the COVID Alert App is an extra tool. It’s certainly not the one thing that’s going to transform the path of this virus, but every time someone punches in a code to share a positive test with their fellow citizens, there are people who get alerted and get tested and we slow the spread of the virus. So, people in B.C. can still download the app and be alert if someone from Ontario was close to them and then gets tested later or someone from another part of the country. I’m encouraging people to continue to download it and, hopefully, as we’ve seen getting 25 per cent use around the country amongst smartphone owners, it is making a difference. It’s preventing hundreds of transmissions and at this point, when we’re seeing spikes, why not use every tool in the tool box? And we’re going to continue to encourage B.C. to take a look at this.

“The challenge that we’ve seen with the B.C. health authorities is they want a little more functionality in the app but we’ve deliberately made it so that it protects people’s privacy to a level that will encourage people to download it. It doesn’t geolocate, it doesn’t take your name, it’s totally anonymized, it’s totally voluntary, which means more people use it, but it does mean that the health officials get less information on what they’d like. But that’s a balance that I think we’ve got right and I certainly hope B.C. changes its mind.”