Edmonton airport shut down to international flights to prevent COVID-19: Trudeau

Click to play video: 'Edmonton won’t receive international flights starting Wednesday'
Edmonton won’t receive international flights starting Wednesday
WATCH: New federal rules mean non-Canadians will not be allowed into the country. Starting Wednesday, international flights are restricted to just four airports, and Edmonton is not one of them. Sarah Komadina has more from EIA – Mar 16, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that Edmonton International Airport will be no longer be accepting international flights, an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Starting Wednesday, March 18, only four Canadian airports will be accepting international flights: Toronto Pearson, Montreal Trudeau, Vancouver International Airport, and Calgary International Airport,” Trudeau said in an address to Canadians Monday morning.

Flights from the U.S., Mexico, the Caribbean and Saint Pierre and Miquelon will not be affected by the new rules, said Trudeau.

EIA president and CEO Tom Ruth said the airport has been anticipating this change for some time.

“In the airport environment, we’re always planning,” he said. “We are trying to stay ahead of announcements, doing scenario analysis all the time, to make sure we’re prepared.

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“A lot of the announcements from government… [have] been this continual escalation to make sure we’re all keeping everybody safe, so we’re prepared to do that.”
Trudeau also announced that the border to the country will be closed to people who are not Canadians or permanent residents, with some exceptions, including U.S. citizens.

“This measure will carve out some designated exceptions including for air crews, diplomats, immediate family members of Canadian citizens, and at this time, U.S. citizens,” said Trudeau.

Click to play video: 'International flights into Edmonton International Airport suspended'
International flights into Edmonton International Airport suspended

For EIA, that means flights from KLM and Iceland Air will be affected, Ruth said. Flights that travel internationally through the U.S. first will continue.

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The travel restrictions won’t apply to commerce or trade which Ruth said is good news for EIA as that type of business contributes to a large portion of what the Edmonton airport does.

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Trudeau also announced that air operators will be formally mandated to prevent people with symptoms from boarding a plane.

Canadians with symptoms would be included in that new rule, but Trudeau said that the government would also be setting up a support program to help get asymptomatic patients abroad back home.

READ MORE: What are coronavirus symptoms? In mild cases, just like the common cold

Ruth couldn’t say exactly what that screening looks like, but said his staff is ready to make sure passengers are as safe as possible.

“The mood [of staff] is one of dedication and resilience. They’ve been working tirelessly long-term to make sure we’re prepared.”

The Alberta government had announced over the weekend that it will be posting flight information, including the flight number, date and any seats on the flight, where passengers may have been exposed to the virus.

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Travel outside Canada is not recommended, and if you returned to the country after March 12, Alberta Health says to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: CBSA employee at Toronto Pearson airport tests positive for COVID-19

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Sunday that he was directing provincial officials to check up on airports in the province after he visited Edmonton International Airport to investigate reports of inadequate screening of international travellers.

There were 324 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada as of Monday morning and another 17 probable cases, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. One person has died of the respiratory illness.

–With files from the Canadian Press

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