Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic outside his residence at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Cancel travel plans, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urges Canadians

Cancel travel plans, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urges Canadians

OTTAWA — Ongoing tensions between the provinces and the federal government over the management of the COVID-19 pandemic pivoted back Tuesday to the question of whether and how border controls can be tightened to slow the spread of the virus.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned Canadians to cancel any non-essential trips they have planned abroad or even within Canada in the coming weeks, as new travel restrictions are on the way. What shape they might take remains up for discussion.

“The bad choices of a few will never be allowed to put everyone else in danger,” he said at a news conference outside his Rideau Cottage home in Ottawa.

The premiers for Ontario and Quebec, however, suggested new measures could be implemented swiftly, including mandatory quarantine in hotels for returning travellers, flight bans from countries where new variants of the novel coronavirus are circulating and mandatory testing upon arrival in Canada.

“We aren’t the first country to require this and we won’t be the last,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said during a visit to Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, where a pilot project testing some incoming travellers is underway.

“I can’t figure out for the life of me why we aren’t testing every single person that comes through this airport … and the land crossings as well. We have to lock down.”

On Tuesday, the global case count topped 100 million since the novel coronavirus was first detected just over a year ago. The first cases in Canada were found a year ago this week.

So far, over 19,000 people have died and more than 753,000 have contracted the virus.

The number of cases believed to be linked specifically to travel is less than two per cent, a fact officials generally peg on a ban that’s been in place for nearly a year on non-essential travel into Canada, and the associated quarantine measures.

As of Jan. 7, people coming into Canada must also take a pre-arrival COVID-19 test.

The Canada Border Services Agency said Tuesday that since that requirement went into effect, there’s been a 33 per cent drop in international travellers arriving by air when compared to a similar time period last year.

Still, dozens of flights have arrived since that date with passengers on board who later tested positive for COVID-19.

In Alberta, where a pilot project to test some returning travellers at both the land border and at the Calgary airport has been underway since November, 1.15 per cent of tests have come back positive as of last week.

Data released Tuesday on the Toronto program, which began this month, showed 2.26 per cent of tests so far came back positive.

Wesley Lesosky, who heads a union division representing about 15,000 flight attendants at nine airlines, told the House of Commons transport committee Tuesday there should be a “serious look” at using rapid tests at airports before anyone gets on a plane.

Currently, a person departing for Canada must go and get their own test, known as a PCR, within 72 hours of their departure and provide proof of a negative result.

While non-essential travel into Canada is restricted, it is much more challenging to simply block Canadians or permanent residents from travelling abroad or returning.

Trudeau also said Tuesday commercial flights often carry cargo, so there are concerns restrictions could affect trade.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault likened the debate to this time last year, when pressure began for Trudeau to close the border due to the arrival of the pandemic in Canada.

The closures didn’t end up coming until mid-March — after thousands of spring break travellers from Quebec had already left, and returned, kicking off the first wave of the pandemic in that province.

He said he didn’t understand why it is taking so long for Trudeau to act this time around.

“Each day there are travellers arriving, each day that goes by there’s an added risk,” Legault said in French.

“So there’s an urgency to act.”

The National Airlines Council, which represents the largest airlines in Canada, said Tuesday despite concerns about winter travel, international air service is down 90 per cent, and domestic service has been cut by 80 per cent.

Case numbers continued to come down in much of Manitoba, but officials there also want tougher border controls, and have decided to put some in place themselves — starting Friday, all out-of-province arrivals will have to self-isolate.

Premier Brian Pallister said the move was needed given the spread of COVID-19 variants and the slowing of vaccine supplies.

No doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will arrive in Canada this week, and there will be a reduction in deliveries next week too as the company retools a production facility in Europe.

The slowdown has seen provinces warn of running out of vaccines, and delaying second doses or even getting first ones into the arms of some priority populations, an issue they’ve blamed entirely on the federal government.

An independent effort by researchers in Saskatchewan to track vaccine delivery and administration in Canada estimates about 77 per cent of the doses received have been administered.

The federal government continued Tuesday to insist the delays won’t compromise the end goal of having all willing Canadians vaccinated by September and shortages now will be made up by a surge in deliveries in the coming weeks.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021.

— with files from Morgan Lowrie, Mia Rabson, Steve Lambert

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced updated health measures Monday which are now in place for retail, hotels and community halls, performance groups, and youth sports as part of Step 2 of Alberta’s reopening plan. (File photo by Government of Alberta)
COVID restrictions for retail, sports and performers further eased

Occupancy in stores and malls boosted to 25 per cent from 15 per cent

The City of Red Deer sits at 249 active cases of the virus, after hitting a peak of 565 active cases on Feb. 22. (Black Press file image)
Active COVID cases in Red Deer continue to decline

249 cases in Red Deer, down from 565 peak on Feb. 22

(File photo)
Five Olds College students semi-finalists in marketing pitch competition

Winner of Second Annual UFA Student Pitch Competition to be announced April 13

Nordegg residents, including retired fisheries biologist Vance Buchwald, are concerned this kind of coal mining could start up in the wilderness area. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mead Gruver, File).
Biologist urges Clearwater County to take a stand against Nordegg coal mining

Vance Buchwald said there’s no future in coal, the county should back eco-tourism

Quentin Lee Strawberry Photo from RCMP
Updated: Bleeding man came to door frantically calling for 911 help, neighbour testifies in murder trial

Quentin Strawberry on trial for second-degree murder accused of killing Joseph Gallant in 2019

Ben King scores for the Red Deer Rebels during the third period of a Western Hockey League game against the Calgary Hitmen at the Westerner Park Centrium Saturday. (Photo by Rob Wallator/Red Deer Rebels)
Rebels complete comeback to pick up first win of season

Rebels 3 Hitmen 2 (OT) The Red Deer Rebels were able to… Continue reading

Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid (97) checks Ottawa Senators' Chris Tierney (71) during third-period NHL action in Edmonton on Monday, March 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Oilers open three-game homestand against Senators with 3-2 victory

Oilers open three-game homestand against Senators with 3-2 victory

Dave Mercer poses in this undated handout photo. Fishing is Dave Mercer's passion. When he's not taping episodes for his fishing show, 'Dave Mercer's Facts of Fishing,' doing his podcast and weekly fishing tips, he can usually be found on the water. Mercer is also in his 11th year as an MC for the Bassmasters Classic and Elite Series and after watching Canadians Chris Johnston, of Peterborough, Ont., and Jeff Gustafson, of Kenora, Ont., capture tournament this in less than a year, Mercer is confident the third Canadian on the tour, Johnston's older brother, Cory, will win a circuit event either this year or next. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Dave Mercer Outdoors Inc.
Bassmasters Elite Series MC Dave Mercer enjoying Canadians’ success on circuit

Bassmasters Elite Series MC Dave Mercer enjoying Canadians’ success on circuit

Meghan McPeak, left, and Randy Urban do play-by-play for the Raptors 905 team in Mississauga, Ont., on Wednesday, January 25, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Toronto Raptors using all-female broadcast crew for televised game later this month

Toronto Raptors using all-female broadcast crew for televised game later this month

Toronto Six get another crack at Isobel Cup women’s hockey championship

Toronto Six get another crack at Isobel Cup women’s hockey championship

Canada's Mikael Kingsbury celebrates after finishing first in the final of the World Cup men's dual moguls skiing competition, Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in Deer Valley, Utah. Canadian moguls star Kingsbury captured a gold medal for the fifth time at the world championships today.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Rick Bowmer
Mikael Kingsbury wins world men’s moguls championship

Mikael Kingsbury wins world men’s moguls championship

A Canadian Premier League soccer ball is shown on a podium in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Canadian Premier League/Chant Photography *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Canadian Premier League offers first look at its bottom line

Canadian Premier League offers first look at its bottom line

Team Manitoba skip Jason Gunnlaugson directs his team as he plays Team Wild Card One at the Brier in Calgary, Alta., Monday, March 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta’s Bottcher hands Wild Card Three’s Middaugh his first loss at the Brier

Alberta’s Bottcher hands Wild Card Three’s Middaugh his first loss at the Brier

Rheal Cormier, left, receives his jacket from Ferguson Jenkins during his induction to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., on June 23, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley
Former Canadian major-leaguer Rheal Cormier dies after battle with cancer

Former Canadian major-leaguer Rheal Cormier dies after battle with cancer

Most Read