Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government is doing all it can to help bring home Canadians who are stranded abroad due to COVID-19 travel clampdowns, but conceded it won’t be able to help everyone.
The global pandemic has led to closed airspace and travel restrictions around the world, making it difficult for people trying to get home.
“It is an extremely difficult situation, but the lockdowns in various countries, the limits on travel, the logistical capacities of our airlines means that we are unlikely to be able to bring everyone home,” he said during a news conference outside his home at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa Saturday.
“So we’re going to ask people to stay safe, to make smart choices, and do the best they can in a situation that is unprecedented, exceptional and very difficult.”
The government has facilitated a flight to bring Canadians home from Morocco today. That flight is expected to arrive in Montreal this evening.
The government is also working to help organize flights to bring home Canadians trapped in Peru and Spain, and flights from other countries are expected as well.
As flight and travel restrictions ramp up around the world, some governments in Canada are imposing their own rules.
The Northwest Territories, which just confirmed its first case Saturday, is banning travel into the region to try to prevent infections of COVID-19.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, Premier Dwight Ball said anyone who has travelled outside the province — whether within Canada or internationally — will be required to quarantine for 14 days.
P.E.I.’s chief public health officer announced similar rules today.
Asked if the federal government will move to restrict travel within Canada, Trudeau said the message already is for everyone to avoid going to see neighbours, whether they are in the U.S. or other provinces. He urged people to self-isolate to protect themselves, and the health-care system and its workers.
“We’re asking people to stay home as much as possible, to avoid non-essential travel,” he said.
Calling it a “live issue” with federal and provincial governments, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said she understands why some provinces want to take steps to stop the spread of infection beyond “hot spots.”
“We do believe there’s some value in regional containment, but we also want to do it in a way that doesn’t disrupt our domestic supply chains, domestic needs to get goods and services from one part of the country to another,” she said during a news conference in Ottawa.
Hajdu stressed the importance of measures such as social distancing and self-isolation, and said officials will have a better sense of how well they are working to slow the spread of COVID-19 in seven to 10 days. But she said stronger measures such as widespread quarantines are not warranted based on the current scientific evidence.