Canada is drastically tightening its borders to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.
Prime MInister Justin Trudeau today said the border will be closed and that only Canadians citizens, Canadian permanent residents and U.S. citizens will be allowed into the country. Immediate family members of Canadians also will be allowed.
He also said planes from international airports will only be allowed to land in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal as of Wednesday, March 18. As well, airlines will be asked to screen passengers before they get on board and will be able to deny passage to would-be fliers who show COVID-19 symptoms.
“Anyone who has symptoms will not be able to come to Canada,” the PM said.
Trudeau said Canadian travellers stranded overseas will get assistance to get home.
Travellers returning to Canada will be asked to acknowledge that they have been asked to self-isolate for 14 days once they get home.
He also said all Canadians, “as much as possible, should stay home.”
“We are taking increasingly aggressive steps to keep you and your family safe,” Trudeau said in an address to Canadians outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, where he is self-isolation. “These measures will save lives.”
“I know that these measures are far reaching,” the Prime MInister said. “They are exceptional circumstances calling for exceptional measures.”
It’s an extraordinary move that could help the crisis, but the moves will be a major blow to the Canadian travel and airline industry.
Air Canada officials told TravelPulse Canada it’s too early for them to commnent on Trudeau’s plan.
Roughly an hour prior to Trudeau’s speech, Air Canada issued a press release saying it expects its second-quarter capacity to be half the level of the same quarter in 2019. Pacific capacity is expected to drop even more, by 75%.
“To preserve cash, Air Canada is initiating a company-wide cost reduction and capital deferral program, targeting at least $500 million.”
The release didn’t mention layoffs, but officials did note that Air Canada has had an excellent run in the past decade or so.
“Air Canada today has the agility, the team and the route network to successfully navigate through this crisis. Most importantly for business continuity, it also has the necessary financial resources, including a solid balance sheet, record liquidity levels, higher debt ratings based on a low leverage ratio, and a significant pension plan surplus.”
Still, Air Canada talked up the need for federal assistance for the beleaguered airline industry in Canada.
Noting the numerous closures and cancellations of flights around the world, “we believe that the Canadian airline industry should also see similar assistance, whether through forbearance of taxes, landing fees and other charges that form part of the aviation burden in Canada or otherwise until the industry stabilizes. Our industry associations have been and will continue to make these representations to governments. However, we are not awaiting any decision on these measures before implementing our mitigation plan as we believe decisive action is the best course to follow.”
The Air Transport Association of Canada sent an open letter to Trudeau today.
“Although we fully support the Government in its actions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, a government financial assistance is urgently needed to avert a crisis in the aviation industry that will severely impact our member carriers, the travelling public and the Canadian economy, both in the short and long term,” the letter said.
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