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Coronavirus: Sunwing suspends outgoing flights to focus on bringing Canadians home

Click to play video 'Canadian borders close to foreign travellers amid COVID-19 outbreak' Canadian borders close to foreign travellers amid COVID-19 outbreak
WATCH ABOVE: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday that Canada’s borders will be closed to foreign travellers. Erica Vella reports. – Mar 16, 2020

In an effort to flatline the number of COVID-19 cases in the country, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday that Canada will be closing its borders to foreign travellers, with the exceptions of aircrews, diplomats, immediate family members of citizens and U.S. citizens.

Several countries around the world are taking similar approaches by tightening up their borders.

READ MORE: Coronavirus pandemic: WestJet suspending international travel

As a result, Sunwing Travel Group, a Toronto-based air carrier, announced Monday a temporary shift in operations.

The company is cancelling all its southbound flights starting Tuesday up until April 9.

Instead, Sunwing is focusing on bringing Canadians back home.

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“The health and well-being of our customers and our employees is our highest priority and we are working around the clock to keep them safe. It’s important that we do our part to contain the spread of COVID-19, while assuring our customers and their families that we are fully committed to bring each and every one of them home to Canada,” said Sunwing president and CEO Stephen Hunter.

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READ MORE: Here’s why frequent handwashing is recommended in preventing spread of COVID-19

The company says it has around 100, 000 customers that are currently abroad, but repatriation efforts have already begun.

“This morning, the first four rescue flights departed, three from Toronto and one from Montreal,” the travel group said in a news release.

Around 500 Canadians were expected to be on those flights coming home from various countries including Honduras, Aruba, Panama and St. Maarten, which have all announced the imminent closure of their borders, according to Sunwing.

The travel group says it is working in close collaboration with the Canadian government as well as foreign governments as it continues its efforts to fly more Canadians home in the upcoming days.

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Customers affected by the cancellation of outgoing flights from Canada will be able to ask Sunwing for a full cash refund or obtain future travel credits.