Canada to close borders to most foreign nationals, except Americans
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced the federal government will close its borders to most people who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents as part of its efforts to combat COVID-19.
There are exceptions to the travel ban, such as U.S. citizens and diplomats.
Mr. Trudeau, who himself is in self-isolation after his wife tested positive for the novel coronavirus last week, said Monday that air operators will receive the formal order to ban all passengers who are presenting symptoms from getting on board.
A basic assessment will be required based on advice from the Public Health Agency of Canada, Mr. Trudeau said, adding any individual with symptoms will not be able to enter the country.
Mr. Trudeau said the federal government will set up a financial support program for Canadians who still need to get on a plane.
He said that, starting Wednesday, only four airports in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal will be accepting international flights.
Canadians abroad should see this as the time to come back, Mr. Trudeau said Monday.
"Let me be clear, if you are abroad, it is time for you to come home," he said.
Mr. Trudeau also said that those who just arrived to the country must self-isolate for 14 days.
Canadians should also try to stay home as much as possible, he said, adding this will help to protect individuals and those around them.
Social distancing doesn’t mean Canadians have to stop talking to each other, he said, noting individuals should only buy what they need at the store.
When asked about the science behind its decision to allow U.S. citizens to come into Canada, Mr. Trudeau said that the federal government recognizes the level of integration between Canada and the U.S. puts the country in a “separate category” from the rest of the world.
"We will continue to co-ordinate with the U.S., we will continue to examine next steps and measures that must be taken," he said.
More announcements will be made in the coming days as the situation evolves, he added.
At the moment, Canada is issuing self-isolation measures as advice to those returning from outside the country but it is not mandatory despite calls from the federal Conservatives to do so.
Mr. Trudeau said that enforcement measures would be required if it took that step, adding the government is confident that Canadians will take the necessary steps.
Ottawa’s decisions have been based on public health recommendations to ensure a slow spread of the virus in Canada, he said, adding it has come to the point where additional measures are required to move forward.
Passengers returning from outside of Canada will be asked to go home to begin their process of self-isolation, Public Health Safety Minister Bill Blair said Monday.
He said the government is taking measures in airport processing areas to ensure proper social distancing is practiced, adding there will be accelerated efforts to disinfect spaces.
Those crossing the border will also be given the advice to self-isolate for 14 days, Mr. Blair said Monday.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu said she will be speaking to her American and Mexican counterparts this week about looking at a North American response to COVID-19.
Mr. Trudeau also spoke Monday with G7 leaders.
Ms. Hajdu said Monday that time is critical and the government is calling on Canadians to take "extreme social measures" to stop the spread.
She said it is too early to tell, however, if steps that have been taken to date are indeed flattening the curve.
Community transmission is being seen in different communities, she said.
In a joint statement following the call, the leaders said the novel coronavirus poses major risks for the world economy and they will co-ordinate efforts to delay the spread of the virus including through appropriate border management measures.
Over the weekend, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne urged Canadians to return to Canada while flights are still available for passengers.
Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said Sunday the window to flatten the curve, or the the spread of the virus, is narrowing. She urged for Canadians need to “act now.”
“COVID-19 is a serious public health threat," she said.
Source: The Globe and Mail
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