TORONTO — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is warning Canadians to expect more travel restrictions in the near future.
At his briefing Tuesday, Trudeau reiterated federal public health guidance to avoid all non-essential travel, both abroad and in between provinces.
Trudeau said in French that the constantly evolving news of COVID-19 variants from other countries has spurred the government to look at improving the measures already implemented – and that an announcement would come very soon.
The prime minister also reiterated his previous statements on upcoming travel, telling Canadians to cancel any plans they may have booked, and that while the number of cases linked to traveling abroad are low, “one case is too many.”
Trudeau said the “bad choices of a few” should not be allowed to put others at risk.
Currently, the land border between Canada and the U.S. remains closed to travellers, while international travellers flying into the country must show a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours before their departure flight. They then must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
Violations of any of these measures can result in charges under the Quarantine Act, with a maximum sentence of six months in jail or fines up to $75,000.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault reiterated Tuesday that he wants Ottawa to implement an outright ban on non-essential travel or to mandate a 14-day stay in a hotel upon arrival in Canada – and as Trudeau said at his Tuesday briefing, “all options are on the table if necessary.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford also called on the federal government to implement mandatory COVID-19 testing and a temporary ban on direct flights from countries where new strains of coronavirus have been found.
Ford made the announcement while providing an update on a pilot project at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport that has so far detected 146 positive cases of COVID-19 out of 6,580 tests. Four of those positives have been screened as the potential U.K. variant and will undergo further investigation.
“This is simple folks, no politics, no nothing, you land in Toronto, or other areas, you have to be tested, simple as that. We aren’t the first country to require this and we won’t be the last,” Ford said.
The request for more stringent travel measures was echoed by Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, who announced Tuesday that the province is amending its public health orders to introduce a 14-day self-isolation period for anyone travelling into Manitoba from other parts of Canada.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has reported more than 200 flights, both international and domestic, that have confirmed COVID-19 cases, as well as one VIA Rail train trip.
Overall, travel outside Canada has been deemed the primary cause of 1.4 per cent of COVID-19 cases in Canada since the start of the pandemic, with contact with a traveller accounting for another one per cent of infections.
Karen Grepin, an associate professor of public health at The University of Hong Kong, said hotel isolation could cut down on unnecessary trips.
“But at the same time does allow people to go for essential travel if required as long as they’re willing to do the quarantine upon return,” Grepin said.
As Canadians are urged not to travel abroad, a total booking of the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge for nine weeks beginning in February has raised questions about international travel to Canada. Reality Steve, a television writer, tweeted the Bachelorette is filming its next season at the 446-room hotel.
A hotel spokesperson would not confirm who had booked out the entire facility for more than two months, citing privacy concerns.
Asked about the booking, Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said she is working on a professional film industry framework with safety precautions, though she added the federal government would have to sign off on any sort of cross-border television shoot.
“If there are any of those kinds of activities that are looking to come into the province, it wouldn’t just be a provincial conversation, there would be a federal conversation as well,” she said.