OTTAWA – Canada and its G7 counterparts are concerned about the spread of disinformation in the COVID-19 fight, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said Thursday, stressing the need for a co-ordinated response to the world based on science.
Champagne was speaking the day after he spoke of his G7 in a video conference with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo following President Donald Trump’s extreme criticism this week to end the American pandemic lock-up on Sunday, April. 12, for the good of the US economy.
Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday to denounce “Lamestream Media” for trying to “keep our Country closed as much as possible in hopes of contributing to the success of my election.” Days earlier he told Americans to practice social travel and stay home to prevent the spread of the virus.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, Champagne said he and his counterparts emphasized the need to rely on science to make the right decisions in combating today, and in the post-virus recovery phase.
“A lot of our conversation is around fixing our actions around the coronavirus,” Champagne said when asked about the discussion with Pompeo. The group emphasized the need to “ensure that important people can cross borders, that the global supply chain still works, and that we have air bridges.”
Champagne said he and his fellow ministers emphasized the need to act in concert and support international institutions, including the G20, whose leaders met Thursday through teleconference.
“What I’m concerned about is disinformation,” Champagne said.
“We need to speak in a voice to say we need to stick with science, we need to work with multilateral organizations. We need, as democracies in the world, as the West to strengthen the institutions that place international order – follow the rules. “
Champagne did not mention Trump’s name, but he stayed on the government’s foreign-policy line to navigate the actions of the indefinite US president who sparked clashes with world bodies, from United Nations, NATO, the World Trade Organization and others.
“Whether it’s the UN system or the World Health Organization …
we need to be behind them. But as well as the G7, which we have a role to play, we will fight disinformation at the time we need to inform citizens. “
G7 ministers also discussed the need to ensure free flow of basic medical supplies and research towards developing a virus vaccine, Champagne said.
“When it comes to science and making sure we work together towards a vaccine, these initiatives are ongoing. If there’s a time in history, where we need to get together, consult and run together, it’s time,” he said.
In his daily briefing on Thursday, Trudeau defended Canada’s decision to send 16 tons of medical equipment to China in February to help it cope with the initial COVID-19 outbreak. He said it was part of Canada’s response to a global crisis.
“I can assure everyone that the federal stockpiles are sufficient to meet the needs of the provinces up to this point,” Trudeau said, adding that in the coming days the government will receive “millions more items “required.
He said businesses in Canada “are working hard to make sure we are good, not just for Canadians, but for the friends and allies around the world who need it.”
When the initial outbreak in China occurred, Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam, said the World Health Organization has asked other countries to help China with medical supplies in a bid to contain the spread of cases.
“I think this is a very important principal in public health, which is that having the resources is the most important thing that a person should do at the beginning of any outbreak because by helping the initial epicenter you help in the world, you are going to help Canada too, ”Tam said Thursday.
Trudeau also met on Thursday with his fellow G20 leaders through a video conference to discuss further coordination.
“We will only miss COVID-19 if we come together as a global community,” Trudeau said. “This means making sure the World Health Organization and our public health agencies have the resources they need. This means working together to develop a vaccine, identify treatments and increase testing.”
Meanwhile, flights for Canadians leaving overseas continue next week, but Champagne said it will be harder to support them.
“Countries are facing more airspace closure, border closure, airport closure, and so it is becoming increasingly difficult,” he said.
“Countries are taking serious steps in their countries to restrict the movement of people, to protect the health and safety of all citizens. So, we will continue, but it is true that it will be difficult.”
Champagne said previously that not all stranded Canadians who want to return will do so. Global Affairs Canada says it will offer consular assistance to Canadians staying in foreign countries.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 26, 2020.