Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has briefly weighed in on the Alberta pilot project that is aiming to reduce the two-week quarantine period for travellers by offering COVID-19 rapid testing at the border.
Speaking to reporters in Ottawa on Friday (Oct. 23), Trudeau said the project, which was unveiled on Oct. 22, could possibly assist the federal government in loosening Canada’s international border restrictions in the coming months.
“We’re interested in seeing the results of this pilot project,” said Trudeau. “But it is only a pilot project.”
He said Alberta’s program will give the government access to reliable data and “make sure that we are, first and foremost, keeping Canadians safe and controlling the spread of the virus.”
“That will always be our top priority,” said Trudeau, who made his remarks after announcing $214 million for Canadian coronavirus vaccine research.
"Business travellers" only?
COVID-19 rapid tests will be offered at the Coutts land border crossing in southern Alberta and Calgary International Airport starting on Nov. 2.
As explained by officials on Thursday, the testing will be open to voluntary Canadians returning to Canada through Alberta, as well as foreign essential workers and others that are exempt from Canada's non-essential travel ban.
Trudeau, however, didn’t exactly position the project this way in his remarks to media on Friday, referring to Alberta’s pilot as something that is designed for “business travellers.”
It is unclear if Trudeau was simply being vague or if he misspoke or if there will, indeed, be limitations around what types of travellers can utilize Alberta’s new initiative.
It's very well possible the Prime Minister was speaking in terms that relieved him from promoting leisure travel as an option for Canadians as Canada's non-essential travel ban remains in effect.
The Prime Minister was also pressed on his government’s plans for unveiling sector-specific aid for Canada’s struggling airline industry and what the requirements may be.
“The details are still very much under discussion and in reflection,” said Trudeau, noting how airlines have “certainly made use of” more than $1 billion dollars of support through Canada’s wage subsidy program.
Meanwhile, Trudeau acknowledged that Canada’s travel and tourism sector is a “harder hit industry than others.”
“We continue to discuss on ways forward to ensure that we’re going to have a strong airline industry coming back,” Trudeau told journalists.
The Prime Minister's comments came hours after the Globe and Mail, citing anonymous sources, reported that the Liberal cabinet is working on a bailout package for Canada’s airlines.
The "targeted bailout package" may include offers of low interest loans and rollbacks of airport fee increases to help airlines cope with lost business due to the coronavirus crisis, the Globe reported.
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