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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday that Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and Air Transat are suspending all service to all sun destinations, including the Caribbean and Mexico, beginning on Sunday until Apr. 30.
Trudeau said the airlines will be making arrangement for return flights directly with customers who are currently on a trip in these regions.
“I’d like to acknowledge the leadership of Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and Air Transat in making this commitment to suspend flights and be such strong partners in the fight to curb the spread of COVID-19 and its variants,” the prime minister said.
All international passenger flights must land at Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto or Montreal moving forward.
The prime minister said that COVID-19 variants are a “real challenge,” including one travel case of the B117 variant, first identified in the U.K., resulting in multiple COVD-19 cases in the Barrie, Ont., area.
“That’s why we need to take extra measures,” Trudeau said, adding that the number of people coming into Canada with COVID-19 has been low, but it is “not zero.”
Ontario's COVID-19 testing program at the Toronto Pearson International Airport found that 2.26 per cent of people who volunteered to participate tested positive for COVID-19 when they arrived. A previous program between the Toronto airport, Air Canada and McMaster HealthLabs found that one per cent of travellers arriving at the airport tested positive for COVID-19.
“The government asked, and we agreed,” a statement from Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO reads. “While we know that air travel is responsible for less than two per cent of cases since the start of the crisis, and even less today, we recognize the Government of Canada's ask is a precautionary measure.”
“The pandemic has had devastating impacts on our hard-working people, and they have made tremendous sacrifices throughout. The government recognizes how uniquely hard hit our industry has been and has acknowledged our efforts to curb the spread of the virus. We note their words of support for our airline as a strong partner in the fight against COVID-19.”
Additionally, in addition to being tested pre-departure, the federal government will also require air traveller to get tested when they arrive as well. Anyone travelling to Canada will have to quarantine at a government-approved hotel for up to three days, at their own expense, while they wait for their results.
Trudeau stated that the expected cost is more than $2,000.
Individuals who receive a negative test will be able to complete their 14-day quarantine at home with “significantly increases surveillance and enforcement,” while anyone who tests positive will be moved to a government facility.
Non-essential travellers will also have to show a negative COVID-19 test at the land border between the Canada-U.S. border.
“By putting in place these tough measures now, we can look forward to a better time when we can all plan those vacation,” Trudeau said.