Canada has closed its borders to all foreign nationals except for US citizens, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled “increasingly aggressive” measures to contain the new coronavirus outbreak and urged people to stay at home.
“Over the past few days, we’ve seen Covid-19 spread around the world at an even faster pace. Canada is no exception,” Trudeau said. He was speaking from outside his home where he is in self-imposed quarantine after his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau tested positive for the virus last week.
“We assured you that as the situation evolved, our response would evolve too as the virus continues it spread. We’ve decided to take increasingly aggressive steps to keep you and your family safe. All Canadians as much as possible should stay home.”
Trudeau said the borders will remain open for shipping but said his government will restrict flights to Canada to airports in Toronto Pearson, Montreal-Trudeau, Vancouver International and Calgary International.
The move to close its borders contrasts with previous comments from the country’s health minister, Patty Hajdu, who rejected the idea on Friday. But in recent days, Canada has experienced a surge in cases, prompting the country’s chief public health officer, Theresa Tam, to warn residents that the chance to prevent the healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed is closing fast.
“Our window to flatten the curve of the epidemic is narrow,” Tam said over the weekend. “We all need to act now. Covid-19 is a serious public health threat.”
Canada had 377 confirmed cases of the coronavirus – more than double Friday’s figures.
On Monday morning, the province of Ontario announced 17 testing sites and a C$10m (KY$5.9m) public awareness campaign, as well as emergency legislation that would bar companies from laying off employees who have to self-quarantine.