TORONTO — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada’s strict measures against international travel have been “extraordinarily effective” at protecting Canadians from COVID-19, and reiterated the federal government’s message not to travel, however he refused to rise to the bait of a total travel ban despite repeated questioning at today’s COVID-19 briefing.
One reporter put it bluntly, asking why Canadians looking to drive to the U.S. for cross-border shopping will be turned back at the border, but Canadians “can get on flights and fly to Jamaica for an all-inclusive vacation. Explain that to Canadians – why is that still okay?”
Trudeau said the federal government “has strongly discouraged international travel” from the beginning of the pandemic, and said measures including the mandatory 14-day quarantine and the new PCR test requirement have been “extraordinarily effective in keeping Canadians safe from international spread.”
Trudeau also noted that Canada’s travel restrictions are some of the strictest in the world, and added that airlines have had to reduce their flight networks.
All of Canada’s airlines including Air Canada and WestJet have reduced their networks to a fraction of their normal size due to vastly decreased demand and the travel restrictions.
Asked again why Canada’s land border with the U.S. “is so tightly restricted”, while air travel is not restricted, Trudeau said that decisions to allow arrivals into other countries are the responsibility of those countries.
“Our decision is to make sure we are consistent and strong in our regulations on travel,” he added.
Trudeau said the government would monitor new variants of COVID-19, especially from Brazil, after a lockdown on flights from the UK in recent weeks because of the COVID-19 variant outbreak there. “We will do whatever it takes to keep Canadians safe,” he said. “We banned flights outright from the UK. We will continue to look at various variants and take appropriate steps. Our measures are extraordinarily strong. We’re always open to strengthening them as necessary.”
Earlier this week Trudeau said vaccine passports would be a divisive issue for Canadians and says he opposes the concept.
Speaking via online link at the Reuters Next Conference, Trudeau was asked if Canada would follow countries like Denmark with vaccination passports.
Airlines including Qantas and Korean Air have also floated the idea of vaccination passports in recent months.
Trudeau told Reuters: “I think the indications that the vast majority of Canadians are looking to be vaccinated will get us to a good place without having to take more extreme measures that could have real divisive impacts on community and country.”