Quebec premier urges feds to ban non-essential international flights to fight COVID-19

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WATCH: Premier François Legault is calling on Ottawa to ban non-essential international travel. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said this move would contravene Canadians' charter rights. But as Raquel Fletcher reports, the Quebec premier believes an exception can be made in the interest of public health – Jan 19, 2021

Quebec’s premier is urging the federal government to ban non-essential international flights as the novel coronavirus health crisis rages on in the country.

François Legault issued the demand Tuesday, saying he was “very worried” about people returning from vacation abroad while COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations remain high in the province.

“I am asking Mr. Trudeau and the federal government to block all non-essential flights,” he told reporters in Montreal.

Legault says he doesn’t understand how some people can continue to travel or head south on vacation while the pandemic continues to gain ground and new variants of the virus are being discovered. While it may be difficult to determine which flights are essential, Legault said it’s clear that flights to sun destinations are non-essential.

“For example, an all-included package to Punta Cana, do we really need these trips right now?” he said.

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Read more: Pfizer delays prompt Quebec to change coronavirus vaccine rollout plan

The call is not a wish for Ottawa to step in, but a demand, he added. In the meantime, Legault urged the federal government to better enforce quarantine measures for vacationers returning from abroad.

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“We are at the stage of acting,” Legault said.

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Coronavirus: Quebec premier urges feds to ban non-essential international flights – Jan 19, 2021

His comments came after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier in the day urged Canadians to cancel any plans they have for an international trip in the near future. Trudeau warned the federal government could at any time, and without warning, enforce new restrictions on travellers returning to Canada.

“We’re always open to strengthening them as necessary,” Trudeau said, referring to measures restricting international flights.

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In Quebec, public health authorities reported the lowest number of new infections in a single day since early December. Legault says restrictions are bearing fruit, but the “situation remains very critical in hospitals.”

READ MORE: Canada will receive zero Pfizer vaccine deliveries during last week of January

There were 1,386 new cases and 55 additional deaths earlier in the day. The caseload has reached 245,734, while recoveries have topped 217,575. The death toll stands at 9,142.

Hospitalizations rose by nine to 1,500. Of those patients, 212 are in intensive care, a drop of five from the previous day.

The province provided 20,412 tests on Sunday, the latest day for which that information is available. So far, more than 5.4 million tests have been given.

When it comes to vaccines, 10,514 doses were administered Monday for a total of 164,053. The province has also unveiled changes to its rollout plans as a result of the expected slowdown in Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shipments.

With files from The Canadian Press