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COVID-19 border restrictions in Canada: Trudeau, Ford battle over border measures as COVID-19 variants emerge

Elisabetta Bianchini
·2-min read
TORONTO, April 18, 2020: The security gates to the U.S. check-in area are seen with no travelers at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Canada, on April 18, 2020. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made clear that Canada and the United States have agreed to extend cross-border restrictions to all non-essential travel for another 30 days to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. As of 1:30 p.m. Saturday Canada Eastern Time, Canada identified 32,413 COVID-19 cases and 1,346 deaths, according to CTV. (Photo by Zou Zheng/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Zou Zheng via Getty Images)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford made conflicting statements in their respective press conferences on Friday related to COVID-19 restrictions at Canada's borders.

At the beginning of his press conference, the prime minister said Ford has asked the federal government to suspend the arrival of international students. Ontario's premier has expressed concern about the importation of variant cases of COVID-19.

"Because at this time Ontario is the only province requesting this, we’re happy to work more narrowly with them," Trudeau said, adding that the federal government will be reaching out to provincial officials to "formalize that request."

But Ford said that his request goes beyond international students coming into Canada.

According to CBC News, the premier has sent a letter to the federal government asking for the government-sanctioned mandatory three-day hotel quarantine at airports to be extended to the land border.

At his press conference on Friday, Ford said the COVID-19 situation would "absolutely" be different if the federal government imposed stricter restrictions for both land and air travellers.

"It’s not just about foreign students coming here, it’s about have two sets of rules that the federal government's put down," Ford said.

"There's one set of rule if you fly in and you have to quarantine at a hotel, and by the way people aren’t doing that, just to let you in on that one... Going to one of the land borders that people are driving up and getting out, and walking across our border."

The premier added that as long as "loopholes" exist, like individuals walking across the Canada-U.S. border, "we’re not safe from these new variants."

"If I had the power, I would close down [Toronto Pearson International Airport] immediately," Ford said. "I would shut down the land border crossings to only those who are absolutely essential."

Trudeau defended the federal government's border measures, stressing that travel is down by 95 per cent and "the only people" travelling across Canada border are permanent citizens, Canadians returning home, essential workers and "a limited number of exceptional cases."

"Everyone arriving in the country needs to show up with a negative PCR test from the last 72 hours, gets tested on arrival, goes into a strict quarantine for two weeks in a secure quarantine locations...and has to do a third test on day eight to ensure that they are negative," Trudeau said.

He added that the importation of COVID-19 through the border is "extremely low" in Canada and the third wave is very much related "community transmission."