Canada is to discourage international travel during the coronavirus pandemic by agreeing with its major airlines to cancel flights to Mexico and the Caribbean.
Air Canada, WestJet, Air Transat and Sunwing have all agreed to halt services from Sunday, January 31 until April 30.
Special arrangements are to be made to bring those currently in Mexico and the Caribbean to bring them home.
The move, announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday, follows appeals by provincial leaders including Quebec’s Francois Legault, for further curbs to limit the spread of new COVID-19 variants in Canada.
Trudeau said: “With the challenges we currently face with COVID-19, both here at home and abroad, we all agree that now is just not the time to be flying.”
He added: “We know that just one case of the variant that comes in could cause significant challenges and that’s why we need to take extra measures.”
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In a further move, from next week, all international passenger flights are to land at one of Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver or Calgary airports.
Trudeau also outlined plans to introduce mandatory PCR testing at these airports for those coming to Canada. A pre-boarding test is already mandatory.
Arriving passengers will be required to pay more than $2,000 for their stay at an approved hotel for up to three days while waiting for test results.
Those testing negative can then complete their 14-day quarantine at home, with another test on day 10 of that period, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said.
Tam said travellers vaccinated abroad will still be required to quarantine, although that could change.
Canada’s decision follows similar moves in both Australia and the U.K.
Existing International Travel Restrictions
Current restrictions on international travel and the closure of the Canada-U.S. border are in place until at least February 21, 2021, as the federal government looks to quell the second wave of COVID-19 infections.
The restrictions bar entry to all except citizens and permanent residents, with some exemptions.
Canada currently has exemptions in place for the following people, provided they are travelling for a non-discretionary reason.
- Seasonal agricultural workers, fish/seafood workers, caregivers and all other temporary foreign workers.
- International students who held a valid study permit, or had been approved for a study permit, when the travel restrictions took effect on March 18, 2020. More international students will be allowed to travel from October 20 under a new exemption.
- Permanent resident applicants who had been approved for permanent residence before the travel restrictions were announced on March 18, 2020, but who had not yet travelled to Canada.
- Immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents are also exempt if entering to be with an immediate family member for at least 15 days.
- Extended family members of citizens and permanent residents, plus foreign nationals travelling on compassionate grounds.