OTTAWA — Canada is closing its borders to most foreign nationals except Americans and is barring anyone, including Canadian citizens, with symptoms of the novel coronavirus from boarding flights to this country, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday.
Trudeau said the government’s response to the virus is changing in real time on the advice of public-health experts and Canadians should expect additional measures before the crisis ends.
“As the virus continues its spread we’ve decided to take increasingly aggressive steps to keep you and your family safe,” Trudeau said outside his Ottawa home.
Trudeau remained in self-isolation because his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, tested positive for COVID-19 last week and is recovering. He chaired a cabinet meeting from afar Sunday evening, where the latest decisions were made.
Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said the rate of infection in Canada is increasing and the effort to slow the spread of the virus to give health systems a fighting chance to be able to treat it must be heightened immediately.
“We are in a fairly critical period,” Tam said.
Those with the virus typically experience mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough.
The vast majority recover. But for some, including Canadians aged 65 and over and those with compromised immune systems or pre-existing conditions, the illness can be much more severe. The government’s goal is to keep the number of severe cases down to a level hospitals and doctors can handle.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu and other leaders also reiterated calls for Canadians not to panic buy and reminded them the supply chains are safe and food and other supplies will be available.
Trudeau urged Canadians who are abroad to come home immediately and said the government will set up a fund to help them do so if they find the cost out of their reach.
Canada’s border closure took effect yesterday for anyone who is not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident or a U.S. citizen, with some exceptions including diplomats and airline crews.
Airlines will be required to screen all passengers for signs of the virus and deny boarding to anyone showing symptoms. Overseas flights will be funnelled to just four airports in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary to allow the Canada Border Services Agency to better screen arrivals and ensure they are getting information that they are to self-isolate for 14 days.
United States President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that the U.S. and Canada have agreed to temporarily close their shared border to non-essential travel as the two countries work to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Both countries are eager to choke off the spread of the virus but also maintain their vital economic relationship.