To address the threat posed by new and more infectious variants of the novel coronavirus, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Friday unveiled a fresh set of Covid-19 restrictions for travellers who are planning to visit the country. “New variants of Covid-19 pose a real challenge to Canada,” Prime Minister Trudeau said at a press conference. “That’s why we need to take extra measures.”
The new restrictions are aimed at minimising the impact of the deadly disease ahead of the upcoming holiday season.
From suspending flights to a number of popular destinations, to making Covid PCR tests mandatory upon arrival — the Trudeau administration announced a slew of strict new measures to crack down on the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
What are the new travel restrictions Canada PM Trudeau announced?
Prime Minister Trudeau announced that the country’s main airlines — Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing, and Air Transat — are suspending all flights to the Caribbean and Mexico from April 30. The airlines are in the process of “making arrangements with customers who are currently on a trip in these regions to organise their return flights,” Trudeau said at the press conference on Friday.
In addition to this, all international flights will only be permitted to land in Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, and Toronto from next week onwards. Travellers arriving in the country will also have to take compulsory Covid-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests. While awaiting their results, they will be required to quarantine in a government-approved hotel at their own expense. According to Trudeau, the cost for this is “expected to be more than $2,000.”
“Those with negative test results will then be able to quarantine at home under significantly increased surveillance and enforcement,” he added. But those who test positive, will have to quarantine in a designated government facility to ensure that they are not carrying “variants of potential concern”.
He also urged Canadians to avoid all forms of non-essential travel. Trudeau said that nonessential travellers will soon have to present a negative Covid-19 test before entering the land border with the US.
“By putting in place these tough measures now, we can look forward to a better time, when we can all plan those vacations,” the Canadian Prime Minister said.
Non-essential travel to Canada by foreign tourists has been banned since the country first began reporting coronavirus cases in March, last year. Earlier, anyone entering the country for essential travel was required to undergo a mandatory self-quarantine period of two weeks. Travellers had to provide a negative Covid-19 test, taken within three days of their departure time, before boarding a Canada-bound flight.
What has led to the new restrictions?
Trudeau’s recent announcement follows weeks of furore in Canada’s provinces, where local authorities have been urging the Prime Minister and his administration to introduce stricter travel regulations to contain the spread of the deadly virus.
According to latest statistics from the Canada Border Services Agency, over 6.3 million travellers who entered the country since the onset of the pandemic did not have to complete the mandatory 14-day quarantine, Global News reported. The figure includes truck drivers and others involved in cross-border transportation of goods. A number of these workers travel to and from the United States — the world’s
worst-affected country — regularly.
But during his press conference yesterday, Trudeau noted that only 2 per cent of Covid-19 cases in Canada are due to incoming travellers — which he claimed was evidence of the effectiveness of the country’s strict coronavirus restrictions.
What sort of travel is permitted and what is not?
While tourism has not been allowed since the very onset of the pandemic, visitors are permitted to travel to Canada for ‘family-reunification’ in some cases. Most permitted travel is exclusively reserved for Canadian citizens and permanent residents only. Foreign nationals will only be permitted to enter if they are protected workers, asylum claimants, or if they have applied to travel to the country on other compassionate grounds.
While healthcare workers have strongly advised against non-essential inter-provincial travel, residents are permitted to visit most Canadian provinces, other than the Atlantic provinces and Arctic territories. Here, authorities have banned the entry of people from the rest of Canada, unless they are travelling for essential reasons, such as for school or work.
So far, Canada has reported over 7.74 lakh Covid-19 cases and 2.2 lakh deaths.