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Trudeau: ‘no one’ should vacation right now, quarantined travellers won’t access sickness benefit

Click to play video 'Trudeau stresses ‘no one should be vacationing abroad’ during pandemic, sickness benefit not for travellers' Trudeau stresses ‘no one should be vacationing abroad’ during pandemic, sickness benefit not for travellers
WATCH: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke about MPs and other Canadian politicians travelling abroad for non-essential reasons during the pandemic, stressing that "no one should be vacationing abroad" right now – Jan 5, 2021

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has a message for anyone thinking about taking a vacation abroad amid the pandemic: don’t do it.

And if you do, he warned, Canada won’t foot your bills while you do your mandatory two-week quarantine.

“Let me also be very clear about the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit. It is not intended for travellers who are quarantining after a holiday,” Trudeau said, speaking from the front steps of Rideau Cottage on Tuesday.

“This program was created to give people a sick leave if they needed it and otherwise wouldn’t have one from their employer. It is not there to pay for someone’s post-vacation quarantine.”

Trudeau’s comments come amid reports that vacationers returning from sun-drenched beaches could access a loophole in the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CSRB) that would force the feds to cough up hundreds of dollars as travellers undergo the mandatory 14-day quarantine upon their return.

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The CSRB is worth $500 per week for a maximum of two weeks, meaning it can give Canadians up to $1,000 to cover the costs of time spent away from work due to quarantine.

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Coronavirus: Trudeau advises snowbirds travelling to U.S. for vaccine to stay home – Jan 5, 2021

It was originally intended to help Canadians to afford to stay home from work after coming into contact with a positive COVID-19 case or experiencing symptoms of the virus.

Trudeau said more details on closing this loophole would be unveiled “soon.”

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The issue first came to light over the weekend as reports emerged that vacationers may be able to take advantage of the benefit. Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough quickly issued a statement that the government was digging into the issue. But, like Trudeau, she offered little insight into how the government plans to go about ensuring the benefit only goes to those it was intended to help.

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“In September, all parties in the House of Commons unanimously passed legislation, creating three new benefits and outlining eligibility criteria for the Canada Recovery Benefit, Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit and Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit,” Qualtrough said in a weekend statement.

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“The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit was never intended to incentivize or encourage Canadians to not follow public health or international travel guidelines.”

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Federal politicians face fallout for pandemic trips – Jan 4, 2021

Meanwhile, public health officials and government are continuing to urge Canadians to avoid non-essential travel abroad – advice that continues amid recent reports that multiple politicians took vacations in sunny destinations, prompting a slew of resignations.

“No one should be vacationing abroad right now,” Trudeau reiterated during his Tuesday press conference.

“So many people gave up so much more than just a vacation over the holidays. There’s a reason so many Canadians made those tough, but responsible decisions. There’s a reason so many Canadians did their part. It was for the people around them.”

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The prime minister added that anyone travelling must show a negative COVID-19 test before their return and must self-isolate for two weeks.

“When you get back, you need to take this seriously. Not following the rules could mean real consequences, including fines and prison time,” Trudeau said.

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The sentiment was shared during an update from federal health officials and ministers shortly after Trudeau’s own press conference on Tuesday.

“It is a global pandemic, which means if you decide to go on holidays … you’re not actually escaping the pandemic. You’re acting in a way that is irresponsible,” said Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc.

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He added that while the government can’t easily legislate against international travel, they are taking “every measure necessary” to ensure the vacationers are dissuaded from their holiday plans.

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Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam added that the recommendation against international travel is “really critical.”

“Mutations of the virus can occur all the time, and these variants of concern … can actually come up in different areas of the world, not just the U.K.,” Tam said, referring to the faster-spreading coronavirus variant that emerged in the U.K. and has since spread to Canada.

“The next months are going to be really difficult in Canada.”