Canadians scrambling to leave Europe as borders close and flights are suspended

POZNAN, Poland — Canadians in Europe are scrambling to make their way back home as several European countries are restricting traffic, closing borders and suspending international flights in an effort to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

All 27 members of the European Union have reported cases of COVID-19, which has sickened more than 22,000 people in the continent, killing over 1,300 so far.

Poland is suspending all international flights and trains on Sunday, leaving many foreigners, including Canadians, struggling to find a way out of the country.

Several Canadians in the Polish city of Poznan, about 300 kilometres west of Warsaw, say they’ve been told the one remaining flight from Warsaw to Toronto is full.

Renata Kaniewski, of Ottawa, who travelled to Poland for her mother’s funeral, says the next available flight offered by LOT Polish Airlines is scheduled for March 29.

But she says there’s no guarantee that flight will happen, as the Polish government has warned international flights could be suspended for longer.

“Right now I am worried about getting back to Canada, even with a new flight ticket for Mar. 29, because the government here in Poland keeps saying the international flights could be delayed even longer, she said.

“And the news on TV here says nothing about how foreigners can get back home. They only talk about how Poland is planning to get its own people back into the country.”

Poland has reported nearly 100 COVID-19 cases as of Saturday, including two deaths.

Schools and many businesses in the country have been ordered closed in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. As well, restaurants are only allowed to sell take-away meals.

In Poznan, a predominantly Catholic city the size of Winnipeg, church masses have been banned for congregations larger than 50 people. In some areas students have posted hand-written signs on buildings offering to deliver meals to the elderly.

In an email to Canadians in Poland, Global Affairs Canada said that starting at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, that country’s borders would be closed to all foreigners who are not legal residents in Poland.

“All international passenger flights and trains will be suspended. Car traffic into Poland will continue, but under strict controls. All people entering Poland will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days,” the email says.

Ottawa has not said if it will consider offering repatriation flights home to its citizens stranded in European countries, as were provided to Canadians in California, Japan and China, where the novel coronavirus originated.

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