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Canada PM Trudeau working from home as wife tested for Covid-19

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife announced they were self-isolating Thursday as she undergoes tests for the new coronavirus after returning from a speaking engagement with "mild flu-like symptoms."

[OTTAWA] Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife announced they were self-isolating Thursday as she undergoes tests for the new coronavirus after returning from a speaking engagement with "mild flu-like symptoms."

At the same time, several provinces unveiled stricter measures to combat the spread of the virus while sporting events and entertainment galas were cancelled.

Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau's symptoms have subsided since she recently got back from Britain, but as a precaution the prime minister "will spend the day in briefings, phone calls and virtual meetings from home," according to a statement.

Mr Trudeau also cancelled a meeting with Canada's provincial and territorial leaders in Ottawa, but still planned to speak with them and world leaders by phone about measures being taken to curb the spread of the virus in Canada.

Gregoire-Trudeau's symptoms had included "a low fever late last night." She immediately sought medical advice and testing.

Mr Trudeau has exhibited no symptoms, and was advised by doctors "to continue daily activities while self-monitoring."

"However, out of an abundance of caution, the prime minister is opting to self-isolate and work from home until receiving Sophie's results," said his office.

Since the novel coronavirus first emerged in late December 2019, 127,070 cases have been recorded in 115 countries and territories, killing 4,687 people, according to an AFP tally compiled at 1200 GMT on Thursday based on official sources.

Canada has so far reported nearly 150 cases in six provinces, and one death.

Most of the cases have been traced to China, Iran, Italy or Egypt. But seven people who recently returned from the United States also tested positive, public health authorities said.

A preschooler and a baby, meanwhile, were identified as the first two minors in Canada to have contracted the virus.

AVOID CHURCHES: HEALTH MINISTER 

In parliament, Health Minister Patty Hajdu urged Canadians to "reconsider going to areas where there are a large number of people, which might include places like churches, community centres, concerts and various sporting events."

In Quebec province, Premier Francois Legault unveiled the strongest emergency measures yet in this country to combat the spread of the virus.

This included asking all travellers returning from overseas trips or persons exhibiting flu-like symptoms to self-isolate at home for 14 days, and a ban on all indoor gatherings of more than 250 people - leading to the cancellation of the city's Saint Patrick's Day parade held since 1824.

Alberta and British Columbia announced bans on large gatherings too.

Quebec, which has 13 confirmed cases of the virus, is also considering placing the entire island of Montreal, with a population of nearly 2 million, under quarantine.

In neighboring Ontario, public health officials announced the closure of public schools until April 5, while the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television cancelled this year's Canadian Screen Awards, scheduled to air on March 29.

The television series Schitt's Creek led with 26 nominations for this year's awards.

Canada's Juno music awards also scrapped its upcoming gala show, planned for Sunday evening in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. It would have brought together Canada's top musical talent.

"We are devastated to cancel this national celebration of music, but at this time of global uncertainty, the health, safety and well-being of all Canadians must stand at the forefront of any decisions that impact our communities," organizers said in a statement.

AFP