This story was updated on Wednesday, April 21 at 1:23 p.m. EST
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the nation on Tuesday (April 20), announcing that the government will be extending its hotel quarantine and testing requirements for air and land-border arrivals until May 21.
“Now is not the time to travel," the Prime Minister told reporters, repeating remarks he has made on many occasions.
But Trudeau also suggested that even more measures are coming as the government moves to halt the spread of COVID-19 and its variants.
Defending criticism that Ottawa didn't move quickly enough to clamp down on restrictions for travellers, Trudeau said he is open to imposing even stricter travel measures.
“We are continuing to look at more and I have asked our officials to look carefully at, for example, what the U.K. has done very recently on suspending flights from India,” Trudeau said.
Canada's travel restrictions have been broad and have, generally, not focused on one country specifically.
However, India is currently under the microscope due to a "variant of interest'' there that could be causing an outbreak, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said on Wednesday (April 21).
The government says that, in the last two weeks, there have been 35 flights into Canada from India that have contained at least one case of COVID-19.
India banned international flights in March, but Canada is one of 13 nations exempted through an “air bridge” agreement between the two countries.
Meanwhile, Health Canada reports that one per cent of international air travellers are testing positive for COVID-19 during their mandatory three-day quarantine, but hasn't been able to provide data for exactly how many tested positive after 10 days in self-isolation.
Canada’s travel, testing and quarantine measures are “extremely important, which is why we’re keeping them in place,” Trudeau told reporters.
The Prime Minister pointed out that international travel still directly accounts for less than two per cent of all cases in Canada.
“This is just one tool to fight the pandemic,” he said.
Sun flight suspensions
Trudeau also addressed the grounding of sun flights, an agreement between the Government of Canada and Canada's airlines that was originally set to expire on April 30.
“I would like to thank Air Canada and WestJet for their decision to extend their voluntary suspension of flights to sunshine destinations until the end of May,” Trudeau added, speaking in French.
Earlier this month, Air Canada confirmed that it would be extending its suspension of flights to Mexico and the Caribbean throughout May while continuing to operate some flights to Mexico City, Barbados, and Kingston.
Those remaining flights, however, are there to transport essential services, for example carrying cargo and in some cases on northbound flights, temporary foreign workers and Canadians abroad, Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick said.
In a similar vein, WestJet, on April 13, announced it would be extending its suspension of international sun flights until June 4, 2021.
Canada reached a new milestone for vaccinations on Tuesday as officials revealed that 25 per cent of the population (9.5 million people) has been vaccinated against COVID-19 with at least one dose.
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