COVID-19 Update: March 16

These are some of the top recent stories from the Federal Government.

March 16, 2020

Canada to bar entry to most travellers who are not citizens or permanent residents

Canada is barring entry to all travellers who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today — one of a set of extraordinary new measures being introduced to stop the spread of COVID-19.

There will be exceptions for air crew, diplomats, immediate family members of citizens and, “at this time,” U.S. citizens, Prime Minister Trudeau said.

The prime minister also said no one who is displaying symptoms will be permitted to board a flight to Canada, and that air operators will be required to complete a basic health assessment of every passenger based on guidelines from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

“I know this news will spark concern among Canadians travelling abroad. I want to assure you that our government will not leave you unsupported,” he said.

“To help asymptomatic Canadians to return home, our government will set up a support program for Canadians who need to get on a plane. Canadian travellers will be able to get financial assistance to help them with the costs of returning home or temporarily covering basic needs while they wait to come back to Canada.”

Trudeau also said as of March 18, international flights will be permitted to land only at the international airports in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver, in order to enhance screening.

The new border controls will not apply to trade and commerce in order to keep Canada’s supply chains open.

Canada’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says government needs to ‘act now’ to contain coronavirus epidemic

Top Canadian public-health officials stressed that the window is closing to limit the exponential spread of COVID-19 as they escalated warnings and broad closings and identified new cases of community spread.

The federal government issued an advisory urging Canadians travelling overseas to come home as soon as possible, cautioning that “new restrictions may be imposed with little warning.”

Canada’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Theresa Tam said “our window to flatten the [growth] curve of the epidemic is narrow.

“This is our chance right here, right now. We need to act now and act together.”

The Canadian travel industry has already started to contract. WestJet Airlines said it is cutting international seat capacity by 60 per cent and domestic flights by 40 per cent. The airline also announced that a passenger on a flight from Vancouver to Kelowna March 10 tested positive. Via Rail announced it is cutting half its service through the Windsor-Quebec City corridor.

Border agency steps up airport screening measures to stop spread of COVID-19

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is stepping up manpower, educational materials and screening measures at airports and all other entry points to Canada to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Beginning today, all incoming travellers, no matter what their country of origin is, will be asked if they are experiencing any symptoms such as cough, difficulty breathing or fever. They will also need to acknowledge that they are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days if arriving from any international location.

COVID-19 spreading in Canada with no known link to travel, previous cases

Widespread community transmission of COVID-19 is likely underway in Canada, experts say, warning that Canadians need to heed advice from public health officials and do their part to prevent it from getting out of control.

Ottawa advises Canadians not to travel abroad

Canadians who opt to travel now may face consequences such as no coronavirus-related medical insurance coverage and difficulty securing a flight home, as Ottawa has pledged to reduce the number of airports accepting inbound international flights.

The government has also advised all Canadian travellers abroad to return home and recommended that any returning travellers self-isolate for 14 days as a precaution.