“There is a loophole, frankly, because in the past the Americans did not place any restrictions on international flights coming into the United States,” Bill Blair, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety, said during a press conference on Friday.
“This raises our concern because this restriction exists on our land borders, but not when traveling by air,” he added.
While the Canadian-American border remains closed and all non-essential travel banned until at least February 21, in the 10 months that have elapsed since the border restrictions were imposed, hundreds of thousands of travelers have made discretionary flights between the two countries because air travel was not yet so subject to the same restrictions.
With the United States imposing no restrictions on air travel from Canada, the loophole allowed everything from Canadian icebirds to the warm climates of Florida and Arizona for the winter to family members on both sides of the border to make unnecessary visits.
Trudeau for Canadians: Avoid travel
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday reiterated his call for Canadians to stay home and avoid travel of any kind, including domestic and international travel.
Trudeau acknowledged that he cannot constitutionally prevent Canadians from traveling, but cautions that it may become very difficult to return to Canada soon.
“We can take new measures that greatly impede your ability to return to Canada, at any moment, without prior notice,” Trudeau said during a press conference on Friday. “The bottom line is: This is not the right time to travel either internationally or across the country.”
International air travelers who are currently entering Canada must show evidence of a negative Covid-19 test result taken within 72 hours of departure and are also subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine with violators facing strict financial penalties There are exceptions for essential workers.
Looking for more measures
Canadian officials say they are looking for more measures that would discourage as much travel as possible, and they hope a new agreement with the United States will help.
“We are considering a number of measures that could include more restrictions on international travel, additional tracking measures, additional quarantine measures and enforcement measures in order to reduce incentives and discourage people from making unnecessary trips,” Blair said on Friday.
Officials also noted that weeks of lockdown across Canada are slowly starting to work with new daily Covid-19 falls.
“This gives us hope that community control measures are starting to be implemented,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer. “But it is still too early to confirm that these measures are strong enough and broad enough to put us in a steady downtrend.”
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