Well being Minister Jean-Yves Duclos is asking Canadians with plans to journey overseas to cancel their journeys because the extremely transmissible Omicron variant spreads worldwide.
To forestall travel-related infections at a time of mounting case counts, the federal authorities has modified its official steering to advise Canadians to keep away from all non-essential journey outdoors the nation in the meanwhile.
“To those that have been planning to journey, I say very clearly — now just isn’t the time to journey. The speedy unfold of the Omicron variant on a world scale makes us worry the worst,” Duclos stated.
With tens of hundreds of Canadians planning journeys overseas over the approaching weeks, the brand new advisory may wreak havoc on trip plans and void some journey insurance coverage insurance policies.
Acknowledging that introducing a brand new advisory so near Christmas is a “drastic” transfer, Duclos stated he is performing now as a result of he is “afraid” and “involved” for individuals who journey overseas as a result of the Omicron scenario is altering shortly. The speed of unfold is “large,” he stated, and Canadians could discover themselves stranded if nations impose lockdown measures or curb flights out and in.
“The scenario overseas is already dire in lots of locations and it should worsen in a short time, so we’re afraid for what may occur to them in the event that they depart Canada,” Duclos stated.
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Along with the brand new journey warning, Duclos stated the Public Well being Company of Canada (PHAC) will ramp up the necessary arrival testing program on the nation’s airports. Duclos stated final week the feds may course of as much as 17,000 arrival assessments a day — he is now promising to do extra and to “check as many travellers as attainable.”
Final week, the federal authorities introduced it might make incoming travellers from non-U.S. international locations get a COVID-19 check once they arrive in Canada. This new check is along with the pre-departure molecular check that each one travellers should endure earlier than leaving for Canada.
Requested if the arrival testing program will probably be utilized to individuals coming from the U.S., Transport Minister Omar Alghabra stated the federal government is “continuously reassessing” the scenario.
“Once we really feel we have to change our insurance policies, we’ll announce it as shortly as attainable. For now, we’re monitoring it,” Alghabra stated.
Requested if the federal government would take into account reinstating the lodge quarantine program — an earlier initiative that pressured returning worldwide air passengers into lodges whereas whereas they waited for his or her post-arrival check outcomes — Duclos stated “all choices are on the desk.” For now, he stated, the federal government is simply advising towards journey however different measures may quickly comply with.
With the prevailing pre-departure testing requirement and a vaccine mandate in place, PHAC information recommend only a few returning travellers have truly examined optimistic for COVID-19.
Of the 232,835 arrival assessments accomplished by totally vaccinated air passengers between Sept. 10 and Nov. 27, solely 0.14 per cent produced a optimistic end result.
Whereas nonetheless low, the positivity fee for the 267,550 unvaccinated and partially vaccinated travellers who have been examined was 0.63 per cent — almost 5 occasions larger than the speed for vaccinated travellers.
Requested why the federal authorities is concentrating on travellers whereas permitting provinces and territories to proceed with mass gatherings like indoor sporting occasions, Duclos stated right this moment’s measures are all about “prudence.”
“Whether or not we prefer it or not, we should adapt to this actuality. We should stand collectively and do every thing in our energy to guard our well being care system and our front-line staff,” he stated.
WestJet, one of many nation’s largest airways, strongly condemned the brand new journey advisory in a media assertion Wednesday, saying the federal government’s choice is “not primarily based on science and information.”
“Air journey is essentially the most examined and guarded client exercise in Canada. Each individual travelling internationally is examined on common twice all through their journey journey,” stated Harry Taylor, the airline’s president and CEO.
“As the one fully-vaccinated air journey sector on the planet, WestJet is looking on the federal government to publicly share the journey associated COVID-19 information that has been used to re-impose the advisory and recommendation focused in direction of fully-vaccinated Canadians and the journey and tourism business.”
Taylor stated “fully-vaccinated Canadians shouldn’t be singled out” by the federal government for selecting to participate in a “protected exercise.” He additionally stated the journey advisory, coming simply 10 days earlier than Christmas, will trigger “pointless disruption” and “chaos” throughout the journey business.
Final Christmas season — when the federal government had an identical journey advisory in place and vaccines have been scarce — a lot of federal and provincial politicians confronted public criticism for travelling overseas.
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A spokesperson for Conservative Chief Erin O’Toole stated Wednesday the occasion’s caucus members will probably be allowed to journey overseas this yr as a result of the federal government has solely issued an advisory and never an outright “ban” on international journey.
“That is an advisory that helps vaccinated Canadians make knowledgeable selections about protected journey. This is applicable to MPs and all Canadians. As such, members of the Conservative caucus can proceed to journey internationally,” Josie Sabatino stated.
Sabatino stated that, earlier than the final advisory was lifted in October, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and a few of his cupboard ministers traveled internationally on ten totally different events.
In an interview, Liberal Authorities Home Chief Mark Holland stated his occasion’s MPs have been advised to not journey overseas whereas the advisory is in place. He referred to as the Conservative stance on the advisory “utterly irresponsible.”
Rachel Blaney, the NDP whip, stated the occasion’s MPs have been suggested to heed the federal government’s warnings and keep away from all non-essential worldwide journey.
“Canadians are drained and understandably disillusioned that we’re not but out of the pandemic nevertheless it’s extra vital than ever to comply with public well being recommendation to maintain one another protected,” Blaney stated. “Canadians anticipate elected officers to steer by instance by following the principles.”
Talking briefly to reporters earlier, Trudeau stated Canadians should be cautious when planning for the vacations.
“Canadians have been attentive [to COVID-19] for months and months. We have seen that folks know how you can do the correct factor. They are going to should be vigilant and make cautious choices about Christmas,” Trudeau stated in French.
Tune in to CBC’s The Nationwide tonight for a particular full version on COVID-19 and the speedy unfold of the Omicron coronavirus variant in Canada and world wide. What do it is advisable know to guard your self and the individuals round you? Do you have to change your vacation plans? What’s protected and what’s not? Adrienne Arsenault and Andrew Chang will probably be joined by medical doctors and well being specialists all through this system to reply your questions. Ship your inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org, and remember to tune in to The Nationwide tonight at 9 p.m. on CBC Information Community, 10 p.m. on CBC Tv and CBC Gem.