Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced new travel restrictions on Jan. 29, and said major Canadian airlines will be cancelling flights to certain regions. More measures will be announced in the coming weeks that will enforce mandatory quarantine in hotels for all international travellers, as the transmissible variants of the COVID-19 virus continues to spread.
The federal government has reached an agreement with Canadian airlines—Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing, and Air Transat—to suspend services to Mexico and all Caribbean destinations starting on Jan. 31 and lasting until April 30.
Trudeau said the airlines will arrange the return flights with their customers who are now heading to these regions.
Beginning next week, all international passenger flights can only land in the following four airports: Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal.
Trudeau said more measures will be introduced in the coming weeks, including mandatory PCR testing at the airport for people returning to Canada. Travellers must wait for their test results for up to three days in approved hotels at their own expense, which is expected to be around $2,000, he said.
Those who test negative will then have to quarantine at home with “significantly increased surveillance and enforcement.” Those with positive test results will be immediately sent to quarantine in designated government facilities to ensure they are not carrying the more transmissible variants of the virus.
Starting on Jan. 7, the government has required air travellers to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test, done within 72 hours of departure, before boarding a flight to Canada.
In addition, non-essential land travellers at the Canada-U.S. border will also be asked to provide negative test results prior to entry.
“By putting in place these tough measures now, we can look forward to a better time when we can all plan those vacations,” Trudeau said. “Our government is committed to the safe restart and recovery of the Canadian travel and tourism sector as soon as conditions improve, ideally later this year.”
As for the vaccine situation, Trudeau said Canada will receive 78 percent of the Moderna vaccine which is roughly 180,000 doses.
“We will always share the most accurate information we have, but in the short term those numbers can fluctuate,” he said. “But as global production continues to pick up, there will be more stability in the system.”
Trudeau said the temporary delay will not affect Canada’s ability to secure the 2 million doses of the Moderna vaccine as planned before the end of March.
He also said he has spoken with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, who has confirmed that Canada will receive the planned 4 million doses of its vaccines before the end of March.
The opposition Conservatives have been critical of the Liberal government’s handling of the vaccine file.
“They’ve known for months there were going to be problems with production. They didn’t plan for it,” Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole said.
“This week … there will be no deliveries of the Pfizer vaccine. Next week, our order has been cut by 86 percent.”
Funding ‘Safe Return to Class’
Trudeau also announced the release of the second instalment of the federal Safe Return To Class Fund to help provinces and territories to operate schools safely during the pandemic.
“This $1 billion investment will go to everything from more sanitizer, to better ventilation in classrooms, to support online learning and remote classes,” he said.
In August 2020, Trudeau committed up to $2 billion in funding through the program to be given to provinces and territories in two instalments. The first disbursement was paid out last fall as schools across the country reopened.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that it is the major Canadian airlines that will be cancelling flights to the Caribbean and Mexico. The Epoch Times regrets the error.
With files from The Canadian Press