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Limit travel between Ottawa and Gatineau, mayors urge

Light rush hour traffic crosses an interprovincial bridge between Gatineau, Que. and Ottawa on Monday, March 16, 2020.
Light rush hour traffic crosses an interprovincial bridge between Gatineau, Que. and Ottawa on Monday, March 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

The mayors of Ottawa and Gatineau are urging residents to limit any travel between the two cities to “essential trips” only as officials fight to contain the transmission of the novel coronavirus in both provinces through social-distancing measures.

Between commuters and commercial trucks, there’s a fair amount of traffic that typically crosses the Ottawa River daily. A number of residents live in one city and work in the other, or own properties in both cities.

Premier Doug Ford orders closure of all non-essential workplaces
Premier Doug Ford orders closure of all non-essential workplaces

But as the number of new coronavirus cases increases in Ontario and Quebec, health officials want everyone to stay home, save for essential outings, and to limit the number of people with whom they are in close contact.

“This is not the time to go back and forth between your home and the cottage, to shop anywhere other than at local businesses or to go to parks other than your neighbourhood park,” Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin wrote in a joint statement with Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson on Tuesday.

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“Every time you go out, you make several stops, for instance, to get gas [and] groceries … which increases the risk of contagion.”

At this time, “solidarity sometimes means staying home,” the Gatineau mayor said.

READ MORE: Ontario reports 3 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ottawa from travel, close contact

In their statement, the two mayors said the spread of COVID-19 won’t “evolve the same way on both sides of the river” and underscored that residents “must be prepared” to follow recommendations from public health authorities “to the letter.”

Positive cases of the virus have been confirmed both in the national capital and in the Outaouais region.

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As of early Tuesday afternon, Ontario had reported 27 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa, while the Quebec government’s latest numbers indicate 12 cases of the virus in the Outaouais.

No links between cases in Ottawa, Outaouais region, Watson says

In a phone interview on Tuesday, Watson said “there’s no cross-border issue” with cases in Ottawa and the Outaouais based on the latest information he’s been given. Still, he and his counterpart in Gatineau are suggesting there are few reasons to be zipping back and forth at this time.

“Aside from medical reasons and some specific job-related reasons, there’s not a whole lot of rationale why you’d have to do that,” Watson said.

“If you have relatives who are shut in, elderly or ill and you have to bring them food, obviously that would be a reasonable reason to go across the border.”

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READ MORE: Ottawa Public Health wants to monitor how people are complying, coping with social distancing

The Ottawa mayor said adherence to the request to limit interprovincial travel will be “voluntary” because the municipalities have no legal authority to enforce it. Any stricter measures on interprovincial travel would have to come from a higher level of government, Watson said.

I think this is a good interim step,” he said.

Quebec’s premier, for his part, has urged residents of that province to limit travel between regions.

Coronavirus outbreak: Quebec premier shuts down the province
Coronavirus outbreak: Quebec premier shuts down the province