Trudeau announces border closure due to coronavirus, tells Canadians to ‘stay home’
OTTAWA, March 16, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Canadians to “stay home” today while announcing that the country is closing its borders and will deny entry to travelers who are not Canadian citizens because of COVID-19.
However, U.S. citizens so far are exempt from the border closing, due to “the high level of integration and coordination” between the two countries, Trudeau said.
The travel restrictions are threefold:
- Canadian border guards will deny entry to people who are not Canadian citizens, or permanent residents. Aircrews, diplomats, immediate family members of Canadian citizens, and U.S. citizens are exempt.
- Air operators are now mandated to ban people with symptoms from coming to Canada.
- Starting Wednesday, only four airports across the country will be accepting international flights: Toronto Pearson, Montreal Trudeau, Vancouver, and Calgary international airports. However, domestic flights, flights from the U.S., Mexico, the Caribbean, and St. Pierre and Miquelon are exempted.
These travel restrictions will not apply to commerce or trade so as to “continue to ensure the supply of important goods to Canada,” Trudeau said.
“Canadian travelers should return to Canada via commercial means while it is still possible to do so,” he said. “If you’ve just arrived, you must self-isolate for 14 days.”
The Canadian government is not yet mandating self-isolation, he said.
“And finally, all Canadians as much as possible, should stay home,” Trudeau said. “We all have to do it.”
“As the virus continues to spread, we’ve decided to take increasingly aggressive steps to keep you and your family safe,” Trudeau said.
The virus has reportedly spread to more than 140 countries, with Europe now being described as the “epicenter” of the declared pandemic.
“I know these measures are far-reaching. They are exceptional circumstances calling for exceptional measures,” said Trudeau. “These measures will save lives.”
The prime minister said additional measures will be announced Tuesday, and that his government “is not closing the doors at any measures.”
He also emphasized that the Liberals have earmarked a $10 billion stimulus package to help the country and the provinces deal with the economic fallout from the pandemic.
Liberal Prime Minister Trudeau announced the measures from his home, where he has been self-isolating since Thursday after his wife Sophie was confirmed to have contracted the virus.
Over the weekend, the number of confirmed cases in Canada rose from 197 to 341, according to Canadian Press. Most of these cases stem from travel outside Canada, according to CTV.
Ontario reported 32 new coronavirus cases Monday, which brought the province’s current active case total to 172, “a short decline in the increase in numbers from Sunday,” Global News reported.
“Of the total 177 cases, five have been resolved. Health officials report 1537 cases are under investigation, 8464 have come back with a negative result,” it reported.
There is one known death linked to the virus -- a man in his 80s who was living at a North Vancouver seniors’ home, according to Grandin Media.
British Columbia and Ontario — the only two provinces now offering information on those who have recovered — list a combined total of nine “resolved” cases, according to CBC.
A government of Canada website is providing updates on the virus.
Monday’s announcement and press conference announcement followed a cabinet meeting Sunday afternoon.
Canada’s Parliament was suspended Friday, March 13, until April 20.
The federal restrictions come as Quebec’s government declared a health emergency on Friday, and ordered the closure of bars, clubs, gyms, movie theatres, spas and saunas. Restaurants are open, but must operate at half capacity, CBC reported.
Quebec also banned “non-essential visits to hospitals, residential and long-term care centers, intermediate resources, targeted family-type resources and private senior’s residence.”
Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Friday that cruise ships with more than 500 people will not be able to dock in Canada until July 1, Associated Press reported.
On Monday, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) announced on Twitter it is adding additional screening measures at all international airports, CBC reported.
CBSA said an employee at Toronto Pearson International Airport has tested positive for COVID-19 and that it is notifying all staff who may have come in contact with the person, who is now in self-isolation.
Alberta announced on Sunday it will close schools for an extended period of time. Schools and daycares have also been closed for an extended time in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice announced it will suspend operations starting on Tuesday, postponing all but the most urgent trials. Judges would decide Monday whether to proceed with jury trials.
Canada’s top public health official, Dr. Theresa Tam, said in a Sunday press conference that quick action was needed to prevent the outbreak’s most destructive effects.
“Our window to flatten the curve of the epidemic is narrow,” Tam said. “We all need to act now. COVID-19 is a serious public health threat.”
Canada’s official opposition, the Conservative Party, issued a statement Monday calling on the Liberals to have a stronger response to COVID-19.
Catholic dioceses in the country have had differing responses to the declared pandemic.
Latin-rite Cardinal Thomas Collins canceled Masses for the weekend of March 14 and 15 in the Toronto archdiocese, but not daily Mass, and Catholics are allowed to receive Holy Communion on the tongue if they wished.
Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa also canceled weekend Masses for March 14 and 15 but not daily Mass.
Vancouver’s Archbishop Michale Miller did not cancel Masses this weekend but said in a statement attendance had to be limited to 250 people. Edmonton’s Archbishop Richard Smith did not cancel Mass for the March 14-15 weekend.