OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he doesn’t anticipate having to close Canada’s border because of the omicron variant.
At the federal government’s COVID-19 briefing yesterday, following a discussion about rising omicron case counts and still-strong delta case counts, a reporter asked Trudeau, “why not completely shut the border?”
Trudeau noted that Canadians have a constitutional right to re-enter the country, no matter what. “We cannot close the border to any Canadian,” he said. “They are always allowed to come home.”
And as far as omicron goes, the key driver behind rising case counts is community transmission.
When it comes to further travel restrictions, “we are always open to any option to better ensure Canada’s safety,” he said.
But he noted that community transmission is the far greater threat with the highly contagious omicron variant.
Plus, omicron is already well entrenched in Canada, as it is in most countries around the world.
“We know that arrivals at the border represent an extremely small percentage of COVID-19 cases,” said Trudeau.
“So what we want to focus on is decreasing the size of gatherings over Christmas and the holidays.”
He added: “Closing the border at this point in time would not be beneficial.”
Later in the briefing Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos reiterated that Canada has some of the strongest border measures in the world.
The federal government’s travel advisory (Level 3) came into effect on Dec. 15 for at least four weeks, much to the shock and disbelief of the travel industry. There’s a long list of testing requirements for travellers, plus all passengers must be fully vaccinated. Meanwhile the government has eased travel restrictions against its 10 omicron-watch countries.
Also at yesterday’s briefing, Trudeau along with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland announced that the federal government will extend eligibility for two of its COVID-19 financial aid programs, including the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit, for those businesses facing potentially renewed capacity restrictions.
The CRA is now accepting applications for the Tourism and Hospitality Recovery Program (THRP) wage and rent subsidies through its online platform. A quick Q&A from ACTA offers tips for agents looking to submit applications.