Canada to block people with COVID-19 symptoms from domestic flights, trains

Justin Trudeau speaks to news media outside his home in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, March 25, 2020. REUTERS

WINNIPEG: Canada will not allow anyone displaying symptoms of the COVID-19 respiratory illness to board domestic flights or inter-city passenger trains, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Saturday, the latest travel restriction aimed at curbing the coronavirus outbreak.

Trudeau’s government has long urged Canadians feeling ill to stay at home, but he told reporters at his daily press conference that Transport Canada had now formalized travel rules as COVID-19 cases steadily rise.

The restrictions will take effect on Monday at noon EDT.

Asked how screening would be different, Trudeau said the government was giving new tools to airlines and railways. Transport Canada later said airline and rail company staff would ask health questions of passengers and look for visible symptoms.

Even enhanced screening offers “no guarantee” that sick people will not board, as they can hide symptoms, Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said in a separate press conference.

Canada has confirmed 5,153 cases of coronavirus, and 55 deaths, health officials said. While case numbers are climbing, the rate of growth in British Columbia, the Pacific Coast province where community transmission was first reported, seems to be slowing, Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said.

“There are signs of hope,” she told reporters in Ottawa.

In the province of Quebec, however, the number of cases jumped by 24% in the past day to nearly 2,500, more than double any other province. Four additional deaths raised Quebec’s death toll to 22.

New police checkpoints were set to begin restricting non-essential traffic to eight Quebec regions on Saturday, Quebec Deputy Premier Genevieve Guilbault.

Air Canada (AC.TO), the country’s biggest airline, said it would operate a special flight returning Canadians from Algeria on Tuesday, with additional flights scheduled from Peru and Ecuador.

China’s embassy in Ottawa tweeted that the Bank of China had on Friday donated medical supplies to Canada, including thousands of masks, goggles and gloves.

Trudeau has faced criticism at home for sending a shipment of protective equipment to China in February, before COVID-19 cases spiked in Canada.