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Trudeau Government Steadfast Handling Covid-19 Pandemic

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On March 13th, 2020 the Public Health Agency of Canada advised Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel outside Canada in view of the worldwide pandemic and the rapidly evolving situation globally, and to self- isolate for 14 days upon returning to Canada.

Today the Federal Government has imposed stricter guidelines for travelling in and out of Canada by land, air and sea.

The Government recommended that Canadians take additional steps, including avoiding mass gatherings, and advised organizers to consider cancelling/postponing events or modifying the format.

The Government announced the deferral of the start of the cruise ship season to mitigate the unique risks posed by large passenger ships arriving at Canadian ports. As a result, all cruise ships capable of carrying more than 500 passengers and crew are prohibited from Canadian ports. And cruise ships are prohibited from arctic waters for the entire 2020 season due to the very limited public health infrastructure available.

Preventing symptomatic passengers from boarding a plane to Canada

Under the Aeronautics Act, the Minister of Transport will require air operators to deny boarding of a traveller who is symptomatic (regardless of citizenship status) and keep them from going on an international flight to Canada (including a trans-border flight).

Air operators will be required to do a basic health assessment of all air travellers before they board the flight based on guidance from PHAC. This would include the operator asking simple health questions, looking for visible signs of illness prior to boarding, and possibly referring the traveller for a further medical assessment.

In the event the traveller presents COVID-19 symptoms, the air carrier will be required to refuse to board the passenger for travel for a period of 14 days and demonstration that they are non-symptomatic, or until a medical certificate is presented that confirms the patient does not carry the virus.

Airlines will be asked to begin implementing immediately and to have fully in place by Thursday, March 19, at 12:01 a.m. EDT.

While working to protect Canadians COVID-19, we must ensure our airlines continue to fly, and that supply chains remain open. As such, these measures do not apply to domestic flights or cargo flights

Strengthening medical procedures in-flight and medical screening immediately upon landing, with enhanced cleaning and disinfection at airports

Strengthen current practices to ensure that if a traveller becomes symptomatic in-flight, air carriers isolate the passenger quickly according to international standards, and flight crews don appropriate personal protective equipment. In addition, the flight crew would have to notify air traffic control of a passenger presenting COVID-19 symptoms.

Arriving airports will be required to segregate any symptomatic passengers immediately upon deplaning, so they would not mingle with other passengers in the arrivals area and customs hall.

Strengthened screening measures at airports will include stronger and more visible messaging, health screening questions at kiosks, roving CBSA officers checking on arriving passengers, and CBSA officers checking passengers upon departure from the customs hall to ensure delivery and reinforcement of public health messaging.

Airport operators will also be asked to perform enhanced cleaning and disinfection of high traffic areas and facilities, to contain the spread of COVID-19, consistent with PHAC and international guidance.

These measures, coupled with the already announced government initiative of strengthening messaging, and increasing its presence at Canada’s ports of entry, will help instill greater public confidence in the air transportation system, and be a visible sign that Canada is taking the spread of COVID-19 seriously.

Consolidation of international inbound flights to four major hubs only

The Government will redirect some international passenger flight arrivals to four airports – Toronto Pearson International Airport, Vancouver International Airport, Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport and Calgary International Airport.

Domestic flights, as well as flights from the United States, sun destinations such as Mexico and the Caribbean, and from St. Pierre-et-Miquelon, are not affected by this measure and can continue to operate on their regular routes and land at current Canadian destinations.

The change will come into effect on Wednesday, March 18, at 12:01 a.m. EDT. The Government is working closely with the airline industry and airports to avoid unnecessarily disrupting operations and minimize inconveniencing travelers.

Given existing international flight patterns, the vast majority of international flights are already arriving at these four airports. In light of the new policy, both the Canada Border Services Agency and the Public Health Agency of Canada will ensure a sufficient increase in their resources at all four airports.

Both the Canada Border Services Agency and the Public Health Agency of Canada will ensure a sufficient increase in their available resources at all four airports.

Support for Impacted Canadians Abroad

The Government recommended that Canadian travellers who wish to return to Canada seek to do so via commercial means while they remain available.

The Government is enhancing its support to impacted Canadians abroad through the creation of a recoverable financial assistance program for Canadian travellers and will also fund expanded access to a range of support services abroad to provide extraordinary support to Canadians directly affected by COVID-19 and who are unable to immediately return.

14-day self-isolation for all arrivals except for essential work

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has asked that Canadians avoid non-essential travel outside Canada and that any traveller (Canadian or non-Canadian) arriving in Canada undertake 14 days of self-isolation, with the notable exceptions for workers who are essential to the movement of goods and people. This includes travel associated with the movement of healthy workers in the trades and transportation sector such as flight crews, truck drivers, railroaders, mariners, or the movement of other healthy workers across our border to go to work, including health care providers and critical infrastructure workers. These workers are asked to closely self-monitor, and self-isolate immediately should they exhibit any symptoms.  It is recommended that employers in these sectors conduct active daily monitoring of their staff for COVID-19 symptoms.

Banning entry of foreign nationals by air travel from all countries except the U.S.

Under the Aeronautics Act, the Minister of Transport will require air carriers on flights to Canada to deny boarding to any passenger who is not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, and has resided in any country other than the U.S. in the last 14 days.

For practical purposes, the denial of boarding would apply to:

  • all foreign nationals on flights to Canada other than trans-border flights, and
  • any foreign national on a trans-border flight who has resided outside the US and Canada in the last 14 days.

In simple terms, you cannot board a plane to Canada if you have been outside of Canada or the United States in the last 14 days, unless you are a Canadian Citizen, Canadian Permanent Resident or in transit to a 3rd country.

The measure will come into force on Wednesday, March 18, at 12:00 p.m. (noon) EDT. It would not apply to air crews, travelers arriving in Canada in transit to a third country, Canadian Permanent Residents, diplomats, or immediate family members of Canadian citizens.