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Canada hits pause on deportations because of coronavirus

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Federal ministers announce border protection and screening measures' Coronavirus: Federal ministers announce border protection and screening measures
Federal ministers announce international travel restrictions and screening at the border to prevent the further spread of the novel coronavirus. – Mar 17, 2020

In response to the new coronavirus, the Canada Border Services Agency will stop deporting most people effective immediately.

Already, the “rapidly changing” openness of country borders has had a substantial impact on CBSA removals, a spokesperson told Global News via email on March 17.

READ MORE: Live updates — Coronavirus in Canada

Now, all deportations will be halted with the exception of “seriously criminal cases” that will be evaluated by senior staff on a case-by-case basis.

People whose deportations had already been scheduled can expect to hear from CBSA in the coming days, the spokesperson said.

The policy change comes one month after a man’s bid to avoid deportation to China on the grounds that COVID-19 would put him at risk was denied by a judge.

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As first reported by The National Post, Toronto resident Ruepang Cao argued that to be deported to China now would put him at risk of “irreparable harm” in light of the pandemic.

READ MORE: Here’s where Canada is on the coronavirus curve

In a Feb. 13 decision, Federal Court Justice Robert L. Barnes rebuffed the request to delay the deportation by a few months, saying the risk is low because infection and mortality rates in many parts of China are low.

Per the decision, Cao was scheduled to be deported at 12:30 a.m. on Feb. 15. Global News could not verify whether that deportation went ahead following the judge’s order. Cao could not be reached and his lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced earlier this week that Canada’s borders would be closed to everyone who is not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. As of Wednesday, the border with the U.S. has also been closed for all non-essential reasons.

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Coronavirus outbreak: EU has now closed to the outside amid spread of COVID-19 – Mar 18, 2020

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

Health officials say the risk is low for Canadians but warn 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.