At a March 16 press conference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada will be closing its borders to anyone who is not a citizen or permanent resident of Canada, barring some exceptions.
The aggressive move was made to combat the spread of COVID-19, a viral illness that has been found in over 300 people in Canada.
Trudeau says that aircrews, diplomats, people who need to see immediate family members, and US citizens are exempt from the new rule.
When pressed on why US citizens are exempt from the ban, Trudeau said the countries are uniquely interconnected and need to coordinate their response to the pandemic. He did not rule out barring US citizens from entering the country in the future.
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Trudeau said he understands the border closure will alarm residents and said that Canadians who are currently abroad–and who are being strongly encouraged to return home immediately–will receive assistance to return home.
Trudeau also said that anyone showing symptoms of coronavirus will not be able to enter the country.
“Airlines will receive a formal order to ban all travellers presenting symptoms from getting on an airplane. Airlines will assess each passenger’s health based on [criteria] from the Public Health Agency of Canada. No one with symptoms who can enter Canada,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau said that starting Wednesday, March 18, only four Canadian airports will receive international flights–Pearson, Calgary International Airport, Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport and Vancouver International Airport.
Flights coming from Canada, the U.S. and Caribbean won’t be affected.
Trudeau said new border and travel restrictions won’t apply to trade or businesses.
“We’ll ensure the supply of product gets into Canada,” he told reporters.
Trudeau emphasized the importance of social distancing and reminded anyone coming home from abroad to self-isolate for 14 days.
“Canadians should stay home. If you stay home, we can ensure our health care professionals can provide more support to those who really need it,” he said.
Trudeau said that while social distancing is difficult, staying home is “important to protect ourselves and others.”
He urged residents to use email and Facetime to stay connected, as well as call friends and check-in with family. He also reminded residents to buy only what they need at the store and ask neighbours if they can shop for them.
He also asked Canadians to thank healthcare workers.
Trudeau said there are no plans to enforce social distancing rules at this time, but Canadians are strongly urged to stay home as often a possible and avoid large crowds.
More measures could be imposed as the situation develops.
Cover photo courtesy of The Canadian Press