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Saskatchewan air travellers respond to coronavirus border closures

What Canada’s closed borders will mean for Saskatchewan
WATCH ABOVE: How the border closures affect Saskatchewan.

Correction: A previous version of this story said the flight Larre and Taylor were on would be one of the last into the Saskatoon International Airport from the U.S. and that all international flights, with some exceptions, would be routed to major airport hubs. All flights into the Saskatoon International Airport from the United States will continue.

 

Two Canadians who just returned from the United States don’t believe the newly imposed travel ban in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak will work.

“I don’t see what the restrictions are going to do,” Linda Larre said. “If the virus is here, it’s going to find its way through, one way or the other.”

“I just don’t understand how we’re going to isolate this. People are travelling freely right now,” Harold Taylor added.

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READ MORE: Trudeau closes Canadian borders to most foreign travellers amid coronavirus outbreak

Larre and Taylor spoke to Global News just a few minutes after landing at Saskatoon International Airport and a few hours after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government would close Canada’s borders on Wednesday to people who aren’t Canadian or permanent residents, with some exceptions. It’s a drastic measure designed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Larre told Global News she thought the lax screening she says she experienced wouldn’t stop the virus.

 

She said the border security agent only asked her two questions — if she was experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms and that she read a pamphlet explaining why she should go into isolation after returning home.

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“I was very surprised. Actually, I thought we were going to be asked a lot more questions when we got on the plane in Orlando, Fla., as well as in Minneapolis, Minn., but nothing was asked of us other than our seats.”

READ MORE: Saskatchewan reports 7th presumptive case of coronavirus

The restrictions won’t totally prevent travel to Canada

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Diplomats, air operators, border crossings related to trade and immediate family members of Canadians and permanent residents are also exempt — as are Americans.

Trudeau said the Canadian and American economies are too intertwined to sever the connection.

READ MORE: U.S. inches closer to shutdown as coronavirus deaths rise, measures tighten

But two of the seven people with confirmed or presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan were recently in the U.S., where testing has been slow.

Coleman Forke, who was travelling to Edmonton later that day, said he was worried about the exemption.

“That’s kind of troubling. I think everyone should be tested, especially if they’ve been somewhere they could have been exposed to it — they definitely should get tested,” he said.

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As of Wednesday, all incoming flights to Canada will be routed to major airports in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto or Montreal. Domestic flights, and some flights from the Caribbean, will not be affected, so anyone returning will have to travel to one of the major hubs and then to Saskatchewan.

READ MORE: Public schools in Saskatchewan closing amid coronavirus concerns

“If the person is coming from one of the U.S. sun spots that [ the Regina airport] serves today, so Phoenix, Orlando or Las Vegas, they’re still able to fly directly back to the Regina airport if their flight was non-stop,” James Bogusz, Regina Airport Authority president, said.​

“If they’re in a sun spot, so lets say Mexico or the Caribbean, and they flew or are flying non-stop back to Regina, they’re still able to do that,” he added.

“This consolidation does not apply to flights to/from the U.S., Mexico and sun destinations, which will still be able to land at their scheduled airport,” a statement from the Saskatoon International Airport.

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Canada’s chief medical officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said anyone who has travelled abroad recently should self-isolate at home for 14 days upon their return.

Bogusz said the airport is emphasizing that point to travellers.

“We continue to improve and increase our custodial services throughout the terminal building, with an emphasis being placed on the passenger touchpoints,” like kiosks, countertops and the international arrivals area. He also said the authority was adding more sanitizer stations but noted the company didn’t manage the actual screening of arriving passengers.

He said all travellers, domestic or international, should inform themselves about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19.

The Saskatoon airport statement said it had activated “contingency cleaning measures.”

Confused about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials say the risk is low for Canadians but warn that this could change quickly. They caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing  very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.