OTTAWA — An entire industry is asking, how can this be happening all over again.
Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced this afternoon that the federal government is reinstating the travel advisory against all non-essential travel.
The blanket travel advisory will be in place for the next month, and will then be reassessed.
“To those who were planning to travel, I say very clearly, now is not the time to travel,” said Duclos.
“These measures will be in place for four weeks, and then will be re-evaluated.”
Canadians could contract COVID-19 abroad, or get stranded, he added.
Canada is also expanding its testing capacity for returning travellers. “We will have more to say on that in the very near future,” he said.
“We know that this may sound very drastic to those listening, but we must avoid overloading our hospital systems at all costs,” he said.
A reporter asked Duclos what he would say to “Canadians who already have plane tickets booked, and to the airline industry?” Duclos said the federal government “knows this is difficult … for airlines, for travel agencies, for families. For people who haven’t been able to see each other for a long time.”
He said the rate of spread with omicron “is huge compared to delta … it’s possible things could get very much worse very quickly. We are asking people to be extra cautious and consider cancelling” their trips.
“A lot of people like to go south for the holidays, including myself,” he added. “So I think this measure can seem very drastic to them. But it also sends a very strong message. We announced this today because we’re concerned for Canadians travelling abroad.”
The advisory has been updated, at travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories.
ANNOUNCEMENT CONFIRMS INDUSTRY’S WORST FEARS
Today’s announcement confirmed rumours that had been swirling that the blanket travel advisory would be reinstated.
The original advisory lifted less than eight weeks ago, as case counts declined and as Canadians far surpassed the 80% mark for full vaccinations. Measures have also been put in place to ensure that all travellers are fully vaccinated.
However uncertainty around the omicron variant has triggered a rapid escalation of new travel restrictions.
On Nov. 30 the federal government announced that all air arrivals into Canada must be tested upon arrival and self-isolate pending the results.
At that time the government also added three more countries to its omicron watch list, for a total of 10.
When the original travel advisory lifted on Oct. 20, 2021, it had been in place for more than 20 months.
The blanket travel advisory devastated the travel industry and recovery was just starting to get underway. Meanwhile Bill C-2, which promises additional financial aid to hardest hit sectors including travel and tourism, has not yet passed, and also does not provide support for independent travel agents.