Trudeau tested negative for COVID in August after feeling throat 'tickle'

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that he tested negative for COVID-19 recently after he developed a "tickle" in his throat.

It is the first time Trudeau has revealed he was ever tested for the illness. He said he was not tested last March when his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, tested positive because public health advice at the time was that only people with symptoms should seek testing.

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Trudeau never showed symptoms at that time but isolated at his Rideau Cottage home for a month, during a time most Canadians were also in strict lockdowns.

He initially told reporters Monday the test he did have occurred "earlier in September" but his office later clarified it happened Aug. 27.

Trudeau said he had a "throat tickle."

"I checked with my doctor and he recommended I get tested," he said. "I got tested. It was negative and I went back to work a few days later when the doctor told me I was cleared to do it."

A written statement from the Prime Minister's Office said Trudeau's results came back Aug. 28.

Trudeau's spokesman said the prime minister did not get the test through a private option available to members of Parliament.

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole turned to that option mid-September, when long lines at Ottawa testing sites left he and his family unable to get tested there.

O'Toole tested positive, but has recovered and returned to work. His wife, Rebecca, and their two children also initially tested negative, but Rebecca later tested positive after exhibiting symptoms and going for a second test at an Ottawa public testing site.

Shortly before he revealed he had been tested, Trudeau criticized reports of private tests in several provinces, saying he would be speaking to Health Minister Patty Hajdu to follow up on the issue later in the day.

"It is foundational to Canada that everyone has access to health care," Trudeau said when asked about those reports. "This is something we all know is extremely important. I have seen these reports on private clinics and testing and I will be speaking with the health minister later today to ensure follow up on this."

Hajdu said later Monday she has asked her department to look into "the nature of the clinics" providing tests, "but generally no, we prefer that there isn't a two-tier public health system.

"In fact, the law says explicitly that should not exist and we have a number of measures under the Canada Health Act if that's happening," she said.

As thousands of Canadians are waiting hours, if not days, to be swabbed and get their results, numerous reports have emerged about private options for COVID-19 testing, with patients who can afford it able to pay as much as $250 for tests in multiple cities across Canada.

Ontario Power Generation has set up private testing for its employees and their families. The House of Commons has an on-call doctor who can arrange a private test for MPs if need be.

Trudeau said in May that he will take an antibody test when one becomes widely available to see if it is possible he had an asymptomatic case of the illness.

Some studies have suggested as many as 40 per cent of the people who are infected with COVID-19 never show any symptoms.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 5, 2020.

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