OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that as of noon Monday, boarding of domestic flights and trains will be denied to people showing any symptoms related to COVID-19.
He said all Canadians are being asked to remain home as much as possible in an effort to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, but in particular those with symptoms of COVID-19 should not go out. Those symptoms include fever and cough.
“We are giving further tools to airlines and rail companies to ensure that anyone exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms does not travel,” he said Saturday. He said it will be up to the companies to ensure the new rules are followed.
Trudeau also addressed the situation of the 248 Canadians stranded on a cruise ship off the coast of Panama, where some passengers have tested positive for COVID-19 and four others have died.
The federal government is working with the Panamanian government and Holland America, which operates the Zaandam, in an effort to get the Canadians home.
He said the efforts are part of the “herculean task” Global Affairs Canada is undertaking to repatriate stranded Canadians around the world.
Two passengers on board the MS Zaandam have tested positive for the disease while 53 passengers and 85 crew have flu-like symptoms, Holland America said in a statement.
There are 1,243 passengers and 586 crew on board, the company said in a statement. The Zaandam is anchored off the coast of Panama and plans are underway to move healthy people to its sister ship nearby, Holland America said.
“We continue to engage with the Panamanian government, and are working with Holland America on their plans to get passengers home,” said Global Affairs Canada spokeswoman Angela Savard.
Michael Kasprow is terrified for his 81-year-old mother, Julie, who is currently contained to her room with her friend on the Zaandam. She is healthy, he said, and had her vital signs checked yesterday.
“My mom’s demeanour certainly changed in the past 24 hours from, ‘This will be OK,’ to hearing news that people on board had passed away,” Kasprow said.
“My mom is my superhero and is incredibly circumspect when it comes to things like that, but it’s really stressful and scary to her, and this definitely rocked her a bit.”
The crew is preparing to move his mother to the sister ship, the Rotterdam, he said.
“From what I understand, they are going to move healthy and asymptomatic passengers over to the Rotterdam to find some place to dock,” Kasprow said.
All ports along its route are closed, Holland America said.
“While the onward plan for both ships is still being finalized, we continue to work with the Panamanian authorities on approval to transit the Panama Canal for sailing to Fort Lauderdale, Florida,” the company said.
Kasprow, from Toronto, said he is dealing with a mixture of emotions with the uncertainty about his mother, who lives in Thornhill, Ont.
“I just want her home in her stupid chair for 14 days so we have everybody in the same area and I can talk to her from the end of the driveway,” he said.
Meanwhile, Canada’s chief public health officer Theresa Tam said the latest data shows about seven per cent of COVID-19 cases in the country have resulted in hospitalization, three per cent have required critical care and about one per cent have been fatal.
She noted that about 30 per cent of people hospitalized are aged 40 and under.
“We continue to keep a close eye on the severity of the disease, because although there will be day-to-day fluctuation, a sustained trend of increased severity could point to a higher rate of infection in vulnerable populations or that the health system is being overwhelmed,” Tam told a news conference.
But she also noted “signs of hope” from British Columbia, where data indicates the province’s COVID-19 experience will likely resemble South Korea’s rather than brutally hit Italy.
Tam noted that B.C. was the first area of Canada to experience community transmission. “It is too early to know for sure, but after weeks of public health interventions, the rate of growth appears to be slowing,” she said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 28, 2020.