Albertans race to find ways back to Canada as travel restrictions grow over the coronavirus

Click to play video: 'Albertans trying to get back to Canada as travel restrictions tighten over the coronavirus' Albertans trying to get back to Canada as travel restrictions tighten over the coronavirus
Albertans trying to get back to Canada as travel restrictions tighten over the coronavirus – Mar 15, 2020

Albertans who are abroad are scrambling to figure out plans to come back to Canada as countries around the world begin to impose stricter travel restrictions to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

This comes after the foreign affairs minister urged Canadians who are out of the country to return home while commercial means are still available.

Sheila Ethier of St. Albert is in Bucerias, Mexico with her significant other and friends. The group arrived at the end of January and are currently scheduled to come home April 7.

However, the group has been watching the developments around the coronavirus and is looking to come back to Alberta sooner rather than later. Ethier is a nurse.

“I felt I needed to be back at work and also, just because I’m in a foreign country and the fear that the way things were happening so fast, that the airlines wouldn’t be able to fly anymore or they would cancel flights,” she said.

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Ethier has been trying to re-book her flight and is concerned that she will be left stranded in Mexico.

“I’m loving my vacation here. It’s wonderful. But given the uncertainty with the markets and the way things are rapidly changing, watching what may or may not happen to airlines across the world…it makes you more concerned about getting home,” she said.

Ethier said she is currently waiting for a call back from her airline to change her flight.

“I’m actually not afraid of the virus as much as I am not being able to get back home,” she said.

“I think the last three days, you wake up in the morning and there’s a feeling of, ‘Is this real?’ You don’t look at it in terms of relaxing on the beach. It’s more of a panic to get home because you’re not sure of the future.”

Click to play video: 'Canadians told to avoid all non-essential travel outside Canada' Canadians told to avoid all non-essential travel outside Canada
Canadians told to avoid all non-essential travel outside Canada – Mar 13, 2020

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Could Canada impose strict travel bans? Experts say yes

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Meanwhile, Darian Crowshaw of Edmonton is still trying to figure out his next steps.

The art student has been studying at the Florence Academy of Art for the last 1.5 years. There has been a travel lockdown on Italy, which is the epicentre of coronavirus cases in Europe.

Crowshaw is on the fence of what to do after hearing the announcement from the foreign affairs minister.

“[The announcement] was like kicking a fire under my butt and saying, ‘Oh no, maybe if I don’t come home right away, I’ll just be stuck here for longer with nothing to do,’” he said.

Crowshaw has been looking at flights back to Canada but is also waiting to see whether the Italian government plans to lift or extend the travel lockdown.

“If they’re going to open the schools back up here by April 3, which is their plan, it would be okay for me to stay here. But if they keep the schools closed and it interrupts our trimester then I’m probably going to have to go home,” he said.

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Crowshaw said he is not one to make hasty decisions.

“I don’t want to go home and have school start and then be back in Edmonton and be in lockdown again,” he said.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Trudeau announces economic aid package to help Canadians amid outbreak

Most people diagnosed with COVID-19 experience mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, and the vast majority of those who contract the virus recover. The Public Health Agency of Canada says the risk to the general population is low.

However, for some, including Canadians aged 65 and over, those with compromised immune systems and those with pre-existing conditions, the illness can be much more severe. Among the Canadians diagnosed with the illness so far, fewer than 15 per cent have required hospitalization.

Public health officials are urging Canadians to practice frequent hand washing and social distancing.

-with files from the Canadian Press

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