OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – The prime minister is doubling down on messaging to Canadians about non-essential travel, urging people to cancel plans they may have.
This comes as highly contagious variants of the coronavirus show up in Canada.
The federal government has already said that it’s looking at stricter COVID-19 travel restrictions heading into spring break.
Trudeau promised more details on next steps in the coming days. He did not say what those would entail, however, he echoed comments made by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland that all options are being considered.
“Nothing is off the table,” Trudeau said, Tuesday. “We will not hesitate to take even tougher measures if and when they’re needed and we’ll be making an announcement in the coming days. The bad choices of a few will never be allowed to put everyone else in danger.”
— Cormac Mac Sweeney (@cmaconthehill) January 26, 2021
Travellers may be tempted right now by cheap resort prices and less-than-packed planes. However, Freeland has said leaving Canada on a vacation is not a good idea at this time.
“I cannot urge Canadians too strongly, please, now is not the time to travel,” she said.
She has hinted that tough new restrictions could be on the way, including forcing returning travellers who were on non-essential trips to quarantine for two weeks at their own expense in a government-designated hotel.
“Travelling is dangerous for you, it’s dangerous for your family, and it’s dangerous for your community,” Freeland said.
“Our government, absolutely, is looking seriously and carefully at measures to further guarantee the toughness of our border measures,” she added.
Anyone coming into the country now must show proof of a negative PCR test before they even get on a plane. Once they arrive in Canada, travellers are required to self-isolate for two weeks at home.
“These measures work. They’re saving lives. And that’s why our friends and allies are following suit,” Trudeau said, Tuesday. “Just take the United States, where they’ve recently adopted the same requirement for a negative test before flying back into the country.”
Starting Saturday, the U.S. will also shut out travellers from South Africa, over concerns around a new virus variant first identified there.
“If you have a free inflow of people from a country in which that mutant is clearly dominant, I believe the travel ban will be important,” says Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. president’s top pandemic adviser.
“I think the ban was the right decision,” Fauci adds.
Joe Biden has extended similar bans on Brazil, Europe, and the U.K.
Vaccines in use today are slightly less effective against the variant identified in South Africa, but Moderna says it’s developing a booster shot.
“As we seek to defeat the COVID-19 virus, which has created a worldwide pandemic, we believe it is imperative to be proactive as the virus evolves. We are encouraged by these new data, which reinforce our confidence that the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine should be protective against these newly detected variants,” said Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna. “Out of an abundance of caution and leveraging the flexibility of our mRNA platform, we are advancing an emerging variant booster candidate against the variant first identified in the Republic of South Africa into the clinic to determine if it will be more effective to boost titers against this and potentially future variants.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has said that about 30,000 international travellers are arriving at Pearson International Airport each week and that testing shows 2.5 per cent of them come back with a positive COVID-19 result.
Meanwhile, the Canada-U.S. land border remains closed to all non-essential traffic.