The Canadian border will be closed to anyone who is not a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident, with a few exceptions, the federal government announced on Monday.
Those exceptions include diplomats, aircrews, family members of Canadian citizens and American citizens.
The border closure is one of three emergency measures announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in an attempt to halt the spread of COVID-19 in Canada. The other measures include restricting international flights to airports in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal and banning airlines from allowing passengers to board if they show any Coronavirus symptoms.
“I know that these measures are far-reaching,” Trudeau said during a media briefing in Ottawa on Monday. “They are exceptional circumstances calling for exceptional measures.”
International flights will be restricted to Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Trudeau International Airport in Montreal, Vancouver International Airport and Calgary International Airport. Domestic flights and flights from the U.S., Mexico, St. Pierre and Miquelon, and the Caribbean will not be affected.
“From the very beginning, Canada’s response has been based on the latest available science and advice from our world class health professionals,” Trudeau said. “Today’s announcement is no different. These measures will help save lives.”
The restrictions start on Wednesday, March 18. They will not apply to commerce or trade.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau said the government plans to take extra precautions to make sure airports across the country don’t become incubators for the virus to spread.
“We were in touch with the airports last night—and this is for all airports—with respect to trying to lay out things so that there is more social distancing when people arrive at the airport, whether they’re on their way in or on their way out,” Garneau said during a press conference following Trudeau’s. “Secondly also, that increased levels of disinfection also take place at the airports.”
Trudeau said he was confident the new regulations would help slow the virus’ spread. He applauded provincial and territorial governments for taking “aggressive steps to protect their communities.” He also hinted that financial compensation would be coming in the future for Canadians stranded abroad, and for low-income families struggling at home.
Trudeau urged any Canadians returning from trips abroad to self-isolate for 14 days, called on residents to avoid non-essential international trips, and advised travellers to return to Canada.
“Let me be clear,” he said. “If you’re abroad, it’s time for you to come home.”
Trudeau faced numerous questions from reporters over how long it took his government to respond to the Coronavirus outbreak. He said he can understand the frustration, but argued the government was acting as quickly as they could on the best advice from health experts.
“We understand that the situation is evolving very quickly,” Trudeau said. “We have taken significant measures in recent days, and we will continue to do so as of today. I understand the concern that people have, but I can assure you that the measures are in place to keep people safe.”
British Columbia announces three more deaths due to COVID-19
Three people have passed away in British Columbia due to COVID-19, British Columbia’s Ministry of Health announced on Monday.
All three patients were residents of the Lynn Valley Care Home in North Vancouver.
The province also announced 30 new COVID-19 cases, bringing BC’s total to 103. The new cases are located in the Vancouver Coastal, Fraser, Interior and Island health regions. Six of those individuals are in acute care, while five more have fully recovered. All others are self-isolating at home.
A significant number of those cases are related to the Pacific Dental Conference 2020 held in Vancouver from March 6-7. Anyone who attended the conference is being asked to self-isolate.