Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he and his cabinet will discuss Quebec Premier François Legault’s request to impose tougher travel restrictions to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus before March break begins.
Canada’s premiers met virtually with Trudeau on Thursday afternoon. Legault would like to see travelers forced to spend their 14-day quarantine in designated hotels, similar to successful measures used by New Zealand.
“I think it’s clear that if we tell eventual travelers that they will have to pay for two weeks a room in a hotel coming back, I think we will have a lot less travelers,” he said.
Legault says current quarantine rules aren’t harsh enough to deter travelers, and Quebecers are at risk.
“When I see the situation in hospitals in Great Britain, we don’t want to see that,” Legault said. “Right now the quarantine for these people is not enough guarantee for the protection of the Quebec workers.”
Legault has pointed out March break travelers brought COVID-19 back to Quebec last year. It left the province slammed, and the COVID-19 epicentre of the country. With March break in Quebec only five weeks away, Legault is hoping to avoid a repeat.
For his part, Trudeau is urging Canadians not to travel.
“No one should be taking a vacation abroad right now. If you have one planned, cancel it. Don’t book a trip for spring break,” Trudeau said on Friday.
Trudeau says his cabinet will discuss stricter travel restrictions in the coming days. He adds that travel right now is risky for so many reasons.
“We could be bringing in new measures that significantly impede your ability to return to Canada at any given moment without warning,” he said.
Some have questioned the legalities of restricting travel, because Canada’s Charter guarantees freedom of movement.
But constitutional experts say the pandemic is likely an acceptable exception that would hold up in court.
“It’s clearly a violation of the charter. But it can be done,” said constitutional lawyer Julius Grey. “I think COVID is an extreme case. I think the danger of bringing in disease is such that the courts would hesitate to uphold someone’s right to travel.”
The airline industry, though, insists travelers only account for two per cent of COVID-19 cases.
Montreal health experts admit travel hasn’t posed a problem recently in Montreal.
“We have cases that are imported form travelers but it’s not an important proportion of our new cases,” said Montreal public health director Dr. Mylène Drouin.View link »