People entering Canada from abroad will have to quarantine at a government facility for up to two weeks—at their own expense, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Friday.
“With the challenges we are currently facing here at home and abroad, we all agree that now is just not the time to be flying,” Trudeau said in a press conference.
The government and several major Canadian airlines have agreed to suspend service to some destinations right away: Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing, and Air Transat are cancelling all flights to warm climates like Mexico and the Caribbean until April 30. On top of flight cancellations, starting next week all international flights flying into Canada can only land in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal.
In the coming weeks, international travellers will receive a mandatory COVID-19 test when they land. They will have to wait up to three days at a quarantine hotel, at their own expense, until they get their result.
The quarantine expense for travellers awaiting test results will be $2,000.
Those who test positive will continue to quarantine at designated government facilities, while those who test negative will be allowed to spend the rest of their two-week quarantine at a location of their choosing, with increased surveillance and enforcement, Trudeau said.
“Fewer than 2 percent of COVID-19 cases are linked to Canadians coming back to the country; however, as I’ve already said, even one case is a case too many,” Trudeau said.
Over the last two weeks, at least 139 flights entering Canada have reported a known case of COVID-19. The new travel restrictions are meant to dissuade travel and protect people in Canada as new, more infectious strains of COVID-19 spread around the world, with the United Kingdom and South Africa already largely affected.
For weeks, Trudeau has suggested he would implement even more stringent travel restrictions, and has repeatedly urged people to avoid all non-essential travel, including between provinces. (It’s worthy of note that several Canadian politicians were caught travelling over the Christmas holidays.)
Several travel restrictions have already been in place since the pandemic’s onset last year: the U.S.-Canada border is still closed, non-essential foreign travellers are barred from entering Canada, and everyone who comes in from abroad has to quarantine for 14 days.
But Trudeau started ramping up restrictions earlier this month as the country grapples with its deadly second wave of the pandemic, and experts sound the alarm on new virus variants that will be even harder to contain. As of January 7, anyone boarding a flight en route to Canada has to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of departure.
Flights coming from the U.K. were also temporarily banned after a new COVID-19 strain was first discovered, but that was revoked after Trudeau announced that all travellers would have to obtain a recent negative test result.
As of Friday morning, Canada had confirmed 766,103 COVID-19 cases, 57.020 of which are active, and 19,664 deaths.
Follow Anya Zoledziowski on Twitter.