OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is urging all Canadian residents to stay home this holiday season.
“Let’s be clear: this is not the time for a vacation abroad,” Trudeau said Wednesday during a national address in front of his home in Ottawa.
“Even if you travel every winter, please rethink your plans. In many parts of the country, hospitals are already struggling to cope with new cases. There are new strains of this disease in places such as the United Kingdom. The situation is very serious. By staying home, by following public health rules, you can be part of the solution.”
Airports should not be busy, the prime minister added in French. “If you have booked a trip, reconsider.”
Quarantine rules still in effect
If you choose to travel, Trudeau said, there are strict rules when returning to the country, with a mandatory 14-day quarantine period.
“If you don’t respect this rule, there could be serious consequences,” he said.
The penalties announced in March include fines of up to $750,000 and, or, imprisonment for six months. Someone who causes a risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm to another person by wilfully or recklessly contravening the law could be liable for a fine of up to $1 million or imprisonment for up to three years, or both.
The prime minister declined, however, to support additional quarantine measures, such as New Zealand’s mandatory two-week quarantine in a hotel paid by the arriving resident, or mandatory COVID-19 testing at airports.
Airports should not be busy
In Calgary, there is rapid testing at the airport, and the federal government is in talks with Ontario and with Quebec to extend the rapid-testing protocols for arrivals at major international airports, Trudeau said.
Still, Trudeau told reporters, the federal government is concerned about the number of people thinking of going down south over the Christmas holidays, which is why he was urging people to stay home and do the best thing for their families and for health care workers.
The federal government currently officially advises Canadians only to “avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada.” It does say, however, to “avoid all travel on cruise ships outside of Canada.”
Trudeau also urged people in Canada to stay away from loved ones during the holidays.
“As difficult as it will be, let us find the joy, let us find the celebration. Let’s make sure we are reaching out to friends and far-off family through the miracles of technology that allow us to do that,” he said,
“Reach out over Zoom, reach out over the phone, to make sure people know we are thinking of them, and [that] part of our love for them, and thinking of them, is not showing up and giving them a hug this Christmas.”