Coronavirus: Canada extending international travel restrictions, mandatory quarantine until Sept. 30

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: How safe is air travel during the pandemic?'
Coronavirus: How safe is air travel during the pandemic?
Coronavirus: How safe is air travel during the pandemic? – Aug 21, 2020

Canada is once again extending emergency orders that place restrictions on international travel and make mandatory 14-day quarantines for anyone entering the country during the novel coronavirus pandemic. The orders will be extended for at least another month, the government said.

“Our government is extending the existing restrictions on international travel to Canada by one month — until September 30, 2020 — to limit the introduction and spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” said Public Safety Minister Bill Blair in a Tweet sent out Friday afternoon.

“Canadian citizens and permanent residents returning to Canada will continue to be subject to strict quarantine measures.”

The ongoing restrictions prohibit all non-essential or discretionary travel to Canada from countries other than the United States. This includes any leisure travel, such as vacation and entertainment travel, for non-Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

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Canadians who choose to travel abroad, including to the U.S., will be required to quarantine or either self-isolate upon their return. Essential workers, including health-care professionals, airline crews and commercial truckers will continue to be exempt from quarantine measures.

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Some immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents will also be allowed to enter Canada by air if exempt.

Friday’s announcement also does not affect the Canada-U.S. land border, which remains closed to all non-essential travel until Sept. 21.

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Increase in international air travel

Despite ongoing travel restrictions, the number of international travellers arriving in Canada by air has increased significantly since the first months of the pandemic.

As Global News reported, the number of international passengers arriving at Canadian airports increased from roughly 15,000 a week in late April, to 45,000 a week by early July.

The most recent statistics, provided by the Canada Border Services Agency, show that roughly 60,000 international passengers arrived in Canada each week during August. This includes travellers on flights from the U.S.

Collin Furness, an epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto, has expressed concern about the growing number of international travellers coming to Canada. He believes the government hasn’t done enough to restrict non-essential travel and to clearly define what “essential” travel means.

Click to play video: 'Risks of COVID-19 exposure through air travel'
Risks of COVID-19 exposure through air travel

The government, meanwhile, says it’s up to individuals to determine what non-essential travel means “based on family or business requirements, knowledge of a country or region, and other factors.”

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And while experts such as Furness have warned against increased non-essential travel, Canadian airlines have pressed the government for fewer restrictions and a loosening of quarantine measures.

Mike McNaney, president of the National Airlines Council of Canada, told Global News on Aug. 14 that he believes Canada should begin taking a “risk-based approach” to reopening the border, rather than having a blanket ban on international travel.

McNaney said other countries, including members of the European Union, have started easing restrictions for countries deemed to be safe and with protocols in place for tracking and monitoring any potential outbreaks of COVID-19.

“We believe the time is appropriate here in Canada for the federal government to also look at that very targeted, specific approach,” McNaney said.

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