TORONTO — There was no further word about potential hotel quarantine measures at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s COVID-19 briefing this morning, however Trudeau said that further announcements concerning non-essential travel will be coming “very soon”.
Trudeau’s responses to reporters appeared to call for perspective on travel amid the pandemic, as he was repeatedly asked about tougher travel measures, and why the delay.
Several times this morning Trudeau noted that Canada already has some of the strictest measures in the world when it comes to travel, and that these measures have been in place for almost a year.
Canada has been closed to inbound travel by non-residents and non-citizens since March 2020, plus the 14-day quarantine, also in place since March 2020, “has been extraordinarily effective” at keeping Canadians safe, he said. The PCR test requirement that went into effect Jan. 7, 2021 added another layer of protection.
“Let’s remember that only a small proportion [of COVID-19 cases] are caused by Canadians coming back” from travel abroad, he said. “The vast majority of COVID-19 cases comes from community transmission.”
However, “this is not the time for travel,” he said. “Cancel your travel plans to the south. There will be other opportunities to travel during nicer times.”
“The bad choices of a few will never be allowed to put other people in danger,” he said.
While consumer media continues to circle around the question of stricter travel measures, for almost a year the travel industry has worried that airlines, tour operators and travel agencies may not be around to help travellers make their travel dreams come true in ‘nicer times’. Air travel is down 90% and recovery will be slow going when it does come.
In today’s briefing Trudeau made mention of the federal government’s Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program (HASCAP), first announced in November 2020. The program offers 100% government-guaranteed financing for heavily impacted businesses, including those in the travel and tourism industries, by providing low-interest loans of up to $1 million.
Asked several times why the federal government has not yet moved on stricter travel measures, Trudeau noted that Canada’s supply chain for essential goods relies on air carriers. “We depend on planes coming in every day. We do not want to interrupt the supply chain,” he said.
“We will making an announcement” about non-essential travel very soon, he added. “We are working very hard on that.”
On Jan. 19 and then again on Jan. 22, amid rising case numbers and the emergence of new COVID-19 variants, Trudeau told Canadians to cancel their winter trips and said new measures potentially coming soon could make it difficult for Canadians to return home. In recent days there’s been speculation that the new measures could include hotel quarantines as opposed to home quarantines.