Canada is shutting its borders with most foreigners — excluding Americans— in an attempt to stop the coronavirus pandemic, Premier Justin Trudeau declared Monday.
“All Canadians, much as possible, should also stay home,” he told a news conference outside his house, where he and his family are isolating themselves after his wife Sophie tested COVID-19 positive.
The step comes as the number of reported cases soared to more than 400, including local virus transmission, from a few tens linked to international travel two weeks earlier.
Health officials reported three more deaths on Monday — all related to a nursing home for the elderly in a Vancouver suburb— taking the countrywide toll up to four.
“We will be denying entry to Canada to people who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents,” Trudeau said.
Due to the high “degree of convergence between our two economies and the cooperation we have,” US people will be exempted, Trudeau said.
This “puts the US in a separate category from the rest of the world,” he added.
Since the announcement, most of the country began shutting down, from courthouses and gyms to restaurants and colleges. Big film and sports events have also been postponed.
Airlines will be instructed not to allow passengers exhibiting flu-like symptoms to board, while all inbound international flights will be diverted to Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver airports where public health screenings will be stepped up.
“All of them will be asked (upon arrival), ‘Do you currently have a cough, difficulty breathing or feel (that) you have a fever?’” Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said.
According to Transport Minister Marc Garneau, the steps will take effect starting midday on Wednesday.
He added that cash will be made available to Canadians who wish to go home, but are stuck overseas because they are exhibiting symptoms.