The Emergencies Act would grant the cabinet the power to “regulate or prohibit travel to, from or within any specified area, where necessary for the protection of the health or safety of individuals.”
“We are looking at all potential actions to make sure that we can achieve our aims. The Emergencies Act is something you don’t consider lightly,” Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau told CBC News on Jan. 24. “But we are first and foremost concerned about the health and safety of Canadians. And if we can do that in a way that we have the regulatory power to do it, we will do it.”
Garneau said the government is “in very active discussions” about the measures, but did not give a specific time as to when they will be announced.
“I’m not going to predict when or what, but I can tell you that we are very seized with it in our government,” he said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has urged Canadians to stay put during spring break, as the new measures could be released at any moment and could impede Canadians from returning home.
“My message to Canadians remains clear, no one should be taking a vacation abroad right now,” Trudeau said at a press conference on Jan. 22. “If you got one planned, cancel it.”
Beginning Jan. 7, air travelers five years and older are required to present a negative COVID-19 test result prior to boarding international flights to Canada.
Trudeau said last week that the government could possibility enforce compulsory hotel quarantines at the expanse of travelers who arrive in Canada from abroad.
Several countries are also looking at enforcing stricter travel regulations. South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand all require 14-day hotel quarantines for passengers arriving from abroad.
Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease physician at St. Joseph’s hospital in Hamilton, says the move would deter leisure travel and could include scheduled testing that allows travelers who come up negative to go home earlier.
Last week, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair also announced an extension to the Canada-U.S. border restrictions, which bans all “non-essential” travel until Feb. 21.
When asked if there will be additional COVID-19 testing at the Canada-U.S. land border, Garneau said Canada is working in that direction.
“It would be easier to do … if we have quick tests can be done because it’s a little bit more challenging to do testing at the border. But it’s something that we’re looking at very seriously,” Garneau said.
“As quick tests come along, that makes a big difference because there are challenges with respect to potentially land border points being very congested. And meanwhile, there’s a huge amount of traffic flow that has to keep going.”
New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh says the government should consider mandatory hotel quarantines as well as outright bans on “non-essential” international travel, which Quebec Premier Francois Legault has also called for.
According to a White House executive order, the Biden administration’s secretary of state has been ordered to “commence diplomatic outreach to the governments of Canada and Mexico regarding public health protocols for land ports of entry,” based on the U.S. national COVID-19 response strategy published on Jan. 21.
Top U.S. officials must submit a plan to President Joe Biden within 14 days of the date of the order, to install public health measures for international travel.
“We will engage in a very serious way with the U.S. administration on how best to deal with land borders,” Garneau said.
As of Jan. 24, 2021, Canada has a total of 63,668 active cases of COVID-19 and has recorded 19,094 deaths.
“We need to hang on and hold tight for the next few months,” Trudeau said. “We must get through to the spring and mass vaccinations in the best shape possible.”
With files from The Canadian Press