Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday that Canada is closing its borders to most foreign travellers, except Americans, in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
“All Canadians, as much as possible, should also stay home,” he told a news conference outside his residence where he and his family are self-isolating after his wife Sophie tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.
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The prime minister said: “We will be denying entry to Canada to people who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents.”
Airlines will be ordered not to allow any passengers with flu-like symptoms to board flights, and all inbound international flights will be redirected to four Canadian airports in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver where health screenings will be stepped up.
These measures will take effect starting midday on March 18, said Transport Minister Marc Garneau.
US citizens will be exempted from the ban, Trudeau said, because of the high “level of integration of our two economies and the coordination that we have.”
This “puts the US in a separate category from the rest of the world,” he explained.
There will also be exemptions for air crews, diplomats, and immediate family members of Canadian citizens.
As of 9 am (1300 GMT), Health Canada has confirmed 324 COVID-19 cases in Canada, and one death.
Local media, however, reported three new deaths in British Columbia province.