Trudeau urges Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside country

PRIME Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday strongly urged all Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside the country until further notice.

He also urged Canadian travellers return to Canada via commercial means while they remain available and all travellers to Canada self-isolate for 14 days upon entry, with exceptions for workers who are essential to the movement of goods and people.

Trudeau announced that, beginning March 18, at 12:01 a.m. EDT, the federal government will, for air travel specifically:

* Bar foreign nationals from all countries except the United States from entering Canada. The measure would not apply in designated exceptional circumstances, including to air crews, travellers arriving in Canada in transit to a third country, Canadian permanent residents, diplomats, or immediate family members of Canadian citizens.

* Redirect international passenger flight arrivals to four airports: Toronto Pearson International Airport, Vancouver International Airport, Montréal-Trudeau International Airport, and Calgary International Airport. At this time, this measure will not affect domestic flights or flights from the United States, sun destinations such as Mexico and the Caribbean, or St. Pierre-et-Miquelon, which can continue to operate on their regular routes and land at current Canadian destinations. The government is working closely with the airline industry and airports to avoid unnecessarily disrupting operations and minimize additionally inconveniencing travellers.

* Strengthen screening measures at airports, including stronger and more visible messaging, health screening at kiosks, and enhanced cleaning and disinfection of high-traffic areas and facilities at airports.

In addition, airlines will prevent all travellers who present COVID-19 symptoms, regardless of their citizenship, from boarding international flights to Canada. Airlines will conduct a basic health assessment of all air travellers based on guidance from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The government will also provide support to Canadians affected by COVID-19 abroad. To help these Canadians return home or cope with challenges they are facing while travelling, the government has created the COVID-19 Emergency Loan Program for Canadians Abroad. The Program will provide the option of an emergency loan to Canadians in need of immediate financial assistance to help return home or to temporarily cover their life-sustaining needs while they work toward their return.

Trudeau said these measures are part of a larger strategy the government is implementing, based on science, to prioritize the health and safety of Canadians, ensure the capacity of the health care system, support international and domestic efforts, and mitigate the economic impacts on Canadians and Canadian business.

He noted that today’s announcement builds on earlier measures put in place to respond to COVID19, including waiving the one-week waiting period for Employment Insurance sickness benefits, enhancing the Work-Sharing Program, funding vaccine development and clinical trials, and investing to support the health care system in our provinces and territories.

Quick Facts

* The Government of Canada is asking all travellers entering Canada to self-isolate for 14 days upon entry. For those travelling by air, the request to self-isolate will be clearly communicated at multiple points, for example when purchasing a plane ticket, before boarding the plane, and again upon arrival in Canada.

* Exemptions to self-isolation for 14 days will be provided to healthy workers who provide essential services. This includes workers in the trade and transportation sector who are important for the movement of goods and people across the border, such as truck drivers and crew on any aircraft, train or marine vessel crossing the border. It also includes healthy people who have to cross the border to go to work, including health care providers and critical infrastructure workers.

* Under the Aeronautics Act, the Minister of Transport will require airlines to deny boarding of a traveller who is symptomatic, regardless of citizenship status, and keep them from going on an international flight to Canada. This includes transborder flights, including those from the United States. The pre-boarding health assessment would include the operator asking simple health questions, looking for visible signs of illness before boarding, and possibly referring the traveller for a further medical assessment.

* In the event the traveller presents COVID-19 symptoms, the airline will be required to refuse to board the passenger for travel for a period of 14 days, or until a medical certificate is presented that confirms the patient does not carry the virus.

* Measures implemented by governments throughout the world in their efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 have had significant impacts on Canadians abroad. Cross-border transit and movement within countries is being restricted, and Canadian travellers are recommended to return to Canada via commercial means while they remain available.

* In situations where Canadians abroad are in need of immediate financial assistance as a result of COVID-19, the new COVID-19 Emergency Loan Program for Canadians Abroad will provide repayable loans to facilitate their return to Canada or help ensure that their basic essential needs are met while they work on their return to Canada.

* This loan program will help Canadians who are in quarantine or receiving treatment for COVID-19 in a foreign country cope with challenges related to cultural and language barriers, access to medication, feelings of isolation, as well as post-discharge logistics, and return travel to Canada.

* Canadians in quarantine or receiving treatment for COVID-19 in a foreign country require a tailored approach to consular support that considers the local circumstances and addresses the unique human challenges associated with undergoing quarantine and treatment in an unfamiliar environment. Global Affairs Canada will do its best to supplement its existing consular services through new partnerships with domestic and international partners to enhance its ability to assist affected Canadians.

* Global Affairs Canada is providing 24/7 consular support to Canadians abroad affected by COVID-19 through the Emergency Watch and Response Centre and through consular staff at its network of missions.