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Canada 'needs' airline industry, is monitoring day by day: minister

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada is closely monitoring the slumping airline industry and extended a ban on large cruise ships to Oct. 31 to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Canada's Minister of Transport Marc Garneau speaks in the House of Commons as legislators convene to give the government power to inject billions of dollars in emergency cash to help individuals and businesses through the economic crunch caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Blair Gable/File Photo

"We are monitoring the situation from day to day... I have a responsibility to make sure that when this pandemic is over, we still have an airline industry," Garneau told reporters when asked if the federal government would step in to help Air Canada AC.TO through the COVID-19 downturn.

Due to Canada’s size and geography, “We expect and need an airline industry in this country,” he said.

Before considering any sector-specific aid, the government is waiting to see if the industry takes advantage of its emergency loan program for large companies, Garneau added.

Canada’s April gross domestic product plunged a record 11% from March as businesses shut down to fight the coronavirus, data showed on Friday, and analysts said it was unclear how quickly the economy would recover.

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“COVID-19 is still a very serious threat, but with the right plan and the right investments we will weather this storm together,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in his daily news conference.

On Friday, the public health agency said coronavirus deaths rose to 6,918, an increase of less than 2% from the previous day.

Cruise ships with overnight capacity for more than 100 crew and passengers will not be allowed to operate in Canadian waters at least until November, the minister said. The ban on large cruise ships, many of which were hit by COVID-19 outbreaks, began in March.

As of July 1, it will be up to local, provincial or territorial authorities to set timelines and procedures for all other passenger vessels.

Separately on Friday, the government announced additional funding to help indigenous communities get through the coronavirus outbreak.

Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Dan Grebler and Alistair Bell

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