(Jennifer Gauthier/Bloomberg)

Ottawa has extended for at least another month a sweeping travel ban that bars entry to all travellers who are not Canadian citizens, permanent residents or people entering from the U.S. for “essential” reasons.

The order, which was set to expire tonight, “has been extended until July 31 for public health reasons,” Rebecca Purdy, spokesperson for the Canada Border Services Agency, said in a statement to CBC News.

The order — one of a set of extraordinary new measures introduced on March 16 to stop the spread of COVID-19 — bans most foreign nationals from entering Canada if they arrive from a foreign country other than the U.S. (There are limited exceptions for air crew, diplomats and immediate family members of citizens. Some seasonal workers, caregivers and international students are also exempt.)

The previous order-in-council — a cabinet decision made without going before Parliament — was set to expire at 11:59 p.m. ET Tuesday.

Officials confirm the government will maintain the order barring foreign nationals from entering Canada at this time, instead of modifying the order to reopen the border to certain countries — those with low infection rates or those allowing Canadian tourists to visit, for example.

A separate order prohibits non-essential travel between Canada and the U.S. and remains in effect until July 21; it was extended earlier this month. Under this order, essential workers, such as truckers and health workers, are allowed to cross the border.

Tuesday’s decision by Ottawa to continue banning foreign nationals from entering Canada comes after the European Union agreed to allow some tourists to enter the EU beginning tomorrow. Canada is among the 15 countries on the EU’s so-called “safe” list.

The EU said Tuesday it expects countries on that list to lift any bans they might have in place on European travellers. 

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pushed back against pressure to relax the ban on international travellers, arguing that moving too quickly could spark a second wave of the coronavirus.

“We are going to be very, very careful about when and how we start reopening international borders,” Trudeau said at a briefing on June 22.

“I understand how difficult this is and how frustrating this is for some people, but we know that reopening too quickly or carelessly would lead us to a resurgence that might well force us to go back into lockdown, to shut down the economy once again, and nobody wants that.”

Mandatory quarantine order extended to end of August

Tuesday marks six months since the World Health Organization was first informed of a cluster of unusual pneumonia cases in China – the first public indications of the novel coronavirus’s emergence.

WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned this week that the coronavirus pandemic is “not even close to being over” and that the outbreak is accelerating globally. To date, the WHO has recorded more than 10 million cases and 500,000 deaths globally.

As CBC News first reported on Monday, the federal government is also extending strict quarantine rules requiring travellers to isolate for 14 days upon their arrival in Canada. That separate order – which was set to expire at 11:59 p.m. ET on Tuesday – has now been extended to August 31.

Under the Quarantine Act, travellers also need to confirm that they have a suitable place to isolate where they will have access to basic necessities, including food and medicine.

Under the Act, no one is permitted to quarantine anywhere they could come into contact with vulnerable people. Those who, for example, normally live with an elderly person or someone with a compromised immune system would have to quarantine elsewhere.

If the Canada Border Services Agency suspects that a returning traveller is not going to comply with the rules, it can alert the Public Health Agency of Canada, which can then flag the RCMP’s national operations centre. The RCMP has been playing a coordinating role with local police during the pandemic.

Maximum penalties for failing to comply with the Quarantine Act include a fine of up to $750,000 and/or imprisonment for six months. If someone jeopardizes another’s life while wilfully or recklessly contravening the act, the penalties are even greater: $1 million or three years in prison, or both.

Source: CBC, 30 June 2020.

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