Today, Prime Minister Trudeau announced stricter travel and border measures which had been hinted at for weeks.
Tough new testing and quarantine requirements for arrivals to Canada
Beginning sometime next week, all flights from international destinations will be routed through Canada’s four major airports: Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal. Arriving travellers will soon be required to take a PCR test on arrival and must quarantine in designated hotels at their expense (estimated at around $2000) while waiting for test results. Those whose tests return negative will be permitted to complete the rest of their quarantine at home, under much stricter surveillance and enforcement. Those who test positive, will be required to wait out the entire 14-day quarantine in a government designated facility, at no additional cost. Finally, the Prime Minister announced that testing requirements for non-essential travellers arriving at land borders can be expected soon.
Cancellation of all flights to sun destinations
In addition to these new measures, starting Sunday all flights to the Caribbean and Mexico will be cancelled until at least the end of April. The government said they are working closely with Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and Air Transat on this new measure, including on the issue of Canadians who are currently abroad. The Prime Minister also took the opportunity to thank Canada’s airlines for their leadership and assistance during the pandemic, and referenced the need for a “competitive, thriving, and successful airline industry,” which would be supported by the government to ensure their success in recovery. The Prime Minister may be setting stage for direct government financial aid to the airline sector.
Vaccine delivery developments
In addition to the new travel measures, the Prime Minister also announced further delays in vaccine deliveries next week. Moderna, facing supply shortages, will only deliver 78% of the promised quantities next week. This comes as Pfizer has also faced shortages. The Prime Minister, having spoken to the Moderna CEO this morning, insisted that neither of these delays would affect overall timelines and expects that first quarter delivery targets will still be met.
Johnson & Johnson’s long-awaited single shot vaccine has seen positive results from their trials, with 66% effectiveness at preventing moderate to severe illness, and 85% effectiveness against the most serious symptoms. While this is less effective than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, it still meets the standards set by the US Food & Drug Administration. Being a single-dose vaccine which can be stored for months at refrigerator temperatures, the J&J vaccine presents an option that is logistically easier to manage for a mass-immunization program. The Canadian government has signed an agreement with J&J for up to 38 million doses of their vaccine. The company has already submitted their vaccine to Health Canada for approval.
Safe school funding
Despite a flattening curve in recent days, the second wave of the pandemic means that students in many parts of Ontario are facing at least another week of online learning, although in-person study has resumed in the rest of the country. Against this backdrop, the Prime Minister also announced that $1 billion for the Safe Return to Class Fund will now flow to the provinces to help fund essentials like air filtration systems, PPE, online learning, hygiene, and training. This is the second installment of the $2 billion fund originally announced in August 2020 before the return of school.
Counsel will continue to monitor these developments as more information becomes available. As always, if you have questions regarding the above, please do not hesitate to contact our federal team.