“With the challenges we currently face with COVID-19, both here at home and abroad, we all agree that now is just not the time to be flying,” Trudeau said, speaking from the front steps of Rideau Cottage on Friday.
“By putting in place these tough measures now, we can look forward to a better time, when we can all plan those vacations.”
He said that Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and Air Transat have all agreed to cancel air services to “all Caribbean destinations and Mexico,” starting Sunday. The cancellations will continue until April 30, Trudeau added.
“They will be making arrangements with their customers who are currently on a trip in these regions to organize their return flights,” he said.
Trudeau also announced a new mandatory PCR testing requirement at airports for people returning to Canada. He said that while these travellers wait for this COVID-19 test result, they’ll be forced to quarantine for up to three days at a designated hotel – on their own dime.
Trudeau added that the cost for this is “expected to be more than $2,000.”
“Those with negative test results will then be able to quarantine at home under significantly increased surveillance and enforcement,” Trudeau said.
“Those with positive tests will be immediately required to quarantine in designated government facilities to make sure they’re not carrying variants of potential concern.”
Meanwhile, the Public Health Agency of Canada said Friday the federal government is turning to private security firms to help enforce the 14-day mandatory quarantine and conduct in-person compliance visits.
Contracts totalling $2 million have been awarded to G4S Secure Solutions (Canada) Ltd., GardaWorld and Paladin Risk Solutions, according to PHAC. The Canadian Corps of Commissionaires, a non-profit that hires Canadian Armed Forces veterans and retired RCMP officers, has also been tapped to help with in-person visits.
“The trained and designated Screening Officers working under these contracts will begin in-person compliance visits on January 29, 2021 beginning in Montreal and Toronto,” PHAC spokesperson Tammy Jarbeau said in an email.
“Roll-out across Canada to 35 municipalities is anticipated in the weeks following.”
Trudeau’s comments come after weeks of the government urging Canadians not to take any non-essential trips outside of the country, and amid a warning from Trudeau that he may impose restrictions at any time that could make it harder for them to return.
The new measures are aimed at discouraging travellers from taking non-essential trips outside of the country, amid numerous reports that some Canadians have been escaping the chilly winter with vacations to sunny destinations.
Cases linked to international travel account for just two per cent of COVID-19 cases in Canada. The measures come amid an uncomfortable reality about the number of travellers that are skipping quarantine measures altogether.
More than 6.3 million travellers who have entered Canada since the start of the pandemic were not required to quarantine, according to new figures Global News obtained Thursday from the Canada Border Services Agency.
The figure, which includes truck drivers and other essential workers who transport goods between countries, accounts for 74 per cent of the total 8.6 million travellers who entered Canada by land and air since quarantine measures were implemented in late March.
In addition to the cancelled flights to sunny destinations and a new hotel bill that non-essential travellers will be forced to pay as they await mandatory test results, Trudeau announced that non-essential travellers will have to show a negative test at land borders too.
“We will also, in the coming weeks, be requiring non-essential travellers to show a negative test before entry at the land border with the U.S., and we are working to stand up additional testing requirements for land travel,” he said.
Non-essential travel into Canada by most foreign nationals has been banned since the pandemic first began sweeping across the country last March. Anyone entering the country has been required to self-quarantine for two weeks.
The federal government began beefing up those measures earlier this month.
As of Jan. 7, the government has required proof of a negative COVID-19 test, taken within 72 hours of departure time, before anyone is allowed to board a flight to Canada.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault and Ontario Premier Doug Ford have urged Ottawa to impose mandatory testing upon arrival in Canada as well. And they’ve proposed a ban on flights from countries where the new, more contagious variants of the virus are circulating.
Canada did temporarily ban flights from the United Kingdom after that country reported in December a new variant of COVID-19 that was spreading like wildfire. But the ban was lifted once the pre-departure test requirement came into effect.
—With files from Global News reporter Andrew Russell and The Canadian PressView link »