Alberta UCP MLAs told not to travel internationally over holidays amid COVID-19 uncertainty

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Canadians continue to travel despite new federal advisory'
COVID-19: Canadians continue to travel despite new federal advisory
WATCH ABOVE: Many Canadians are not cancelling their travel plans despite a new travel advisory prompted by recent developments in the COVID-19 pandemic. As Tomasia DaSilva reports, travel agents say insurance is key – Dec 16, 2021

Alberta UCP MLAs have been told not to travel internationally over the holidays.

In a memo to government caucus MLAs dated Dec. 16, chief government whip Whitney Issik said: “I am directing that Members of Government caucus will not be permitted to travel internationally at this time.”

The guidance came after the federal government on Wednesday announced that Canadians, regardless of their COVID-19 vaccination status, should avoid all non-essential international travel amid a rise in Omicron cases.

“To those who were planning to travel, I say very clearly, now is not the time to travel,” said federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos.

“The rapid spread of the Omicron variant on a global scale makes us fear the worst for Canadians that may think of travelling. Travelling Canadians could contract the virus, or get stranded abroad.”

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Read more: Canada advising against non-essential travel abroad as Omicron spreads worldwide

Issik said COVID-19 is unpredictable and the travel directive will be in place until further notice.

“I understand that this directive may impact family members and holiday plans, but we must show leadership as we learn more about the Omicron variant,” Issik said in the memo.

“At this time, interprovincial travel is permitted. If travelling to another province, all provincial guidelines in the jurisdiction of travel must be followed.”

Read more: COVID-19: What can you do in Alberta during the holidays?

Prior to the federal government’s announcement with official guidance on international travel Wednesday, NDP Leader Rachel Notley said she had already advised her caucus to cancel their international travel plans.

“In the last few days we’ve been watching what’s been going on and I guess it was a day and a half ago we started getting a sense that we were going to see more restrictions coming from the federal government, and very possibly an announcement to go back to the old rules of no unnecessary travel,” Notley said Wednesday morning.

“That is the advice and the direction that I have just recently given to our caucus. So we have several caucus members who are in the midst of now cancelling their travel plans.

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“We’ve already advised them to do it. Quite honestly, we think it’s quite likely that it’s going to happen. And frankly, if they do it now, they’re less likely to spend time in a queue and more possibly able to get their money back. We think it’s just wise to go ahead with it now.”

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Some Canadian travellers say advisory came with too little notice'
COVID-19: Some Canadian travellers say advisory came with too little notice

As of Thursday afternoon, Alberta had detected 119 cases of the Omicron variant of concern, an increase from 60 cases of the variant the day before.

Read more: COVID-19: Number of Omicron cases in Alberta jumps to 119 from 60

Last year, several UCP MLAs and staffers for Alberta’s United Conservative Party came under fire after it came to light that they had participated in non-essential international travel over the holidays. At the time, the federal government had urged against all non-essential travel outside of the country.

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Read more: Alberta MLAs who travelled during COVID-19 pandemic lose ministry portfolios

At the same time, COVID-19 restrictions in place in Alberta meant people were not allowed to gather indoors without people outside of their households, with few exceptions for those who live alone.

Earlier Friday, the federal government also reintroduced the requirement for a pre-arrival negative COVID-19 test for all travellers leaving Canada regardless of the duration of the trip.

Starting Dec. 21, all travellers entering Canada will need to show proof of a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. This includes Canadians re-entering the country from trips abroad that were less than 72 hours, Duclos said.

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