TORONTO — It’s been more than a year of intense struggle and insolvency concerns for the retail travel sector, with an almost complete travel shutdown amid the pandemic, and yet the federal government is still fielding questions about even stricter measures to shut down Canada’s borders.
It’s a paradox of the pandemic that travel agents and travel agencies are facing every day. How do you sell less than zero travel?
And yet, the possibility of more measures is always on the table as Canada fights the third wave of COVID-19, said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau yesterday.
The news came as he announced an extension of Canada’s current travel restrictions, including the closure of the Canada-U.S. border, and for international travellers, the 14-day quarantine including the 3-night hotel quarantine, until at least May 21.
There had never been an end-date given for the hotel quarantine rule, first announced Jan. 29, 2021, two days before Canada’s four major air carriers – Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and Transat – suspended their sun flights until April 30.
Since that time Transat has indicated a potential re-start in mind-June, WestJet says June 4 and Sunwing says June 23. Air Canada is offering just three sun destinations in May (Bridgetown, Kingston and Mexico City) and those flights are aimed at essential workers and cargo operations.
“Our strict travel, testing and quarantine measures are extremely important, which is why we’re keeping them in place,” Trudeau said yesterday. At the same time, he pointed out that international travel accounts for less than 2% of all COVID-19 cases in Canada, and said that travel restrictions are “just one tool to fight the pandemic.”
“AS I ALWAYS SAY, WE ARE CONTINUING TO LOOK AT MORE”
While acknowledging the low incidence of travel-related cases, Trudeau is maintaining the federal government’s ‘never say never’ line when it comes to potentially more restrictions, especially as provinces including Ontario fight to control the third wave.
At yesterday’s briefing, one reporter asked why Canada is still allowing flights into Canada from countries with high rates of COVID-19 and variants of concern, such as Brazil and India.
Trudeau led his answer with a complete outline of Canada’s travel restrictions, starting with the advisory against non-essential travel and 14-day quarantine rule in place since March 2020, then the PCR testing requirements – both pre-boarding for air, and on arrival for land or air – and finally the 3-night hotel quarantine along with agreement from the four major carriers to suspend sun flights.
“We have been very firm and vigilant in these measures but of course, as I always say, we are continuing to look at more,” Trudeau said in response.
Trudeau said government officials are currently looking at what the UK has done with the suspension of flights from India, as one example. “We’re looking at what more can and should be done to ensure that we are not getting cases from overseas,” he said.
“The measures we have put in place are limiting significantly and severely the number of imported cases,” Trudeau added. “But we will continue to look at the best science and measures, at what we can do to make sure that the borders continue to be a protection against the spread of COVID-19 and variants inside Canada.”
While travel in the near-term continues to be at a stand-still, many agents tell Travelweek that forward bookings are giving them hope.
Meanwhile, to date more than 25% of the Canadian population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. More than 10 million doses have been administered.
For frequent updates throughout the day check out: https://covid19tracker.ca/vaccinationtracker.html.
It’s one place where it’s always good news that the numbers are going up.