OTTAWA — At his briefing this morning Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadians who have travelled abroad should not expect to collect a benefit for people who have to isolate themselves.
The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) gives income support to employed and self-employed individuals who are unable to work because they are sick or need to self-isolate due to COVID-19, or have an underlying health condition that puts them at greater risk of getting COVID-19.
Trudeau says the program is for workers who have to quarantine because they are sick or have had close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19.
Trudeau says the point was never to subsidize vacations and he’s frustrated and angry that non-essential travellers might have claimed the benefit.
He said the federal government will revise the rules to make it clear they’re not eligible but Trudeau hasn’t said when that will be done.
The issue came to light after news came to light over the holidays that several politicians at various levels of government had travelled to the U.S., the Caribbean and other destinations over the winter break.
“Anyone who travelled for non-essential reasons will not be able to access the CRSB,” Trudeau said this morning, adding that the benefit was not offered “as a way of paying for quarantine after vacation.”
Trudeau said travellers not following the 14-day quarantine rules post-travel could face “real consequences”, and that those could include fines or prison.
He also said he wouldn’t rule out further travel restrictions. “We are happy to do even more,” he said. “We will continue to do whatever it takes to keep Canadians safe.”
Canada already has some of the strongest restrictions against inbound and outbound travel in the world, including an advisory against all non-essential travel and a mandatory 14-day quarantine for returning and arriving passengers. Starting Jan. 7 anyone flying to Canada will also need to show proof of a negative PCR test before boarding their flight.
Trudeau said today: “Most Canadians understand perfectly well that now is not the time to be travelling. We will continue to look at measures that will keep Canadians safe.”
A first ministers meeting is scheduled for this Thursday and Trudeau said there will be talks about border measures.
With file from The Canadian Press