Canadian public health officials are urging all Canadians to postpone or cancel non-essential travel outside of Canada.
Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, is also asking Canadians returning home from outside of the country to consider self-isolation to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“We are considering all travel outside of Canada to be high risk right now. The spread of the illness is quite extensive around the globe,” said Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu.
“Canadians are at risk of being trapped in a country for potentially two weeks or longer depending on the measures that countries take. Out of an abundance of caution, it is best if Canadians stay home,” said Hajdu.
The federal government said Friday it will also restrict incoming international flights to a select few airports to control the spread of COVID-19.
The move comes two days after President Donald Trump announced that as of Friday night, the United States will ban foreign nationals who in the last two weeks visited any of 26 countries in Europe to control the spread of the outbreak.
Trump’s announcement appeared to catch the Trudeau government off-guard and raised the possibility that the U.S. might close the Canada-U.S. border, which would have dire consequences for the Canadian economy.
Asked if the government will close the Canadian border, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: “We are in the midst of looking at this … We’re in the midst of evaluating day to day what to do.”
“As you’ve seen, there are recommendations not to travel outside of Canada. We’re in the midst of co-ordinating with the Americans, obviously, on our borders, on our actions. We’ll continue to evaluate what we can do and how we can keep Canadians in security and we won’t close the door on any idea.”
Transport Minister Marc Garneau and Public Safety Minister Bill Blair announced the new international flight policy after a cabinet meeting that was chaired remotely by Trudeau, who is working in self-imposed isolation after his wife tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Garneau said the government was still working out the details of which specific airports would be affected.
Blair said the government was in consultations to ensure “that international arrivals from certain regions” land at fewer airports. He had no other details.
“This will enable us to concentrate our precious resources for our border-services officers and for our public-health officers to ensure that they can do the important job that Canadians require of screening all arriving passengers to make sure, first of all ,that they are safe and healthy and that they are properly referred and dealt with should they be symptomatic,” Blair said.
Cruise season is also suspended until July and airports will start enhanced screening.