An agreement has been reached between Canada and the United States to keep the border closed to all non-essential travel for another month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday, calling it the “right thing” to do. He is cautioning that it could be months still before non-essential travel is allowed.
The extension on the existing agreement means that the border restrictions will stay in place until June 21, even as parts of both countries begin gradually reopening. The agreement, as it stands, exempts the flow of trade and commerce, as well as vital health-care workers such as nurses who live and work on opposite sides of the border. Tourists and cross-border visits remain prohibited.
“This is an important decision that will keep people in both of our countries safe,” Trudeau said on Tuesday. Facing questions about the cross-border decision, Trudeau said there was a clear desire from premiers to keep up the border closure.
“The decisions that were taking are very much made week-to-week in this crisis. The situation is changing rapidly and we’re adjusting constantly to what are the right measures for Canadians to get that balance right between keeping people safe, and restoring a semblance of normality and economic activity that we all rely on,” said the prime minister.
Speaking about the agreement at the White House, U.S. President Donald Trump said that “as things clean up,” in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic, both sides will “want to get back to normal.”
“We’re very close to Canada,” he said.
To date there have been more than 79,000 COVID-19 cases in Canada, and nearly 6,000 people have died, while the United States currently has more than 1.5 million active COVID-19 cases and more than 90,000 people have died in that country.
Talks had been underway since last week, with Canada wanting to see the travel limitations left in place, despite a growing push from Canadians who want to be reunited with loved ones who live across the border.
The prime minister continues to emphasize that reopening Canada’s border to international travel would be risky as countries worldwide are still working to contain outbreaks and more robust contact tracing has yet to be established.
“We will continue to watch carefully what’s happening elsewhere in the world, and around us as we make decisions on next steps,” Trudeau said.
Ahead of the extension being announced, outgoing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said the government needs to put in place a clear plan for when a more broad reopening of travel could be possible, how that reopening would be managed and how further risks mitigated.
“We’ve also heard from individual cases of hardship, for individuals who are separated because of the closure. We certainly have a lot of compassion for those spouses who have been separated, or children who don’t have access to one parent or another,” Scheer said earlier on Tuesday.
This is the second time the agreement has been extended, after first being imposed in March, with the current extension on border restrictions set to expire May 21.
14-DAY ISOLATION KEY: TAM
The prime minister said this extension gives Canada another month to figure out how to answer questions such as what further measures will be required when the border does reopen to ensure that people crossing the border don’t become vectors for further spread of the deadly respiratory virus in Canada.
He said while planning is already happening on what “strong measures” will be imposed, it will become crucial once the time comes for non-essential travel to pick back up, which he estimates will be “in the coming months.”
Asked about what the public health argument is for continuing to keep the Canada-U.S. border closed and what the benchmarks will be for signs it’s an appropriate time to loosen those restrictions, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the first step would be carefully reopening travel restrictions within Canada.
She said drastically limiting who has been able to enter the country over the last two months—nearly all international visitors—has been key to Canada controlling the outbreak.
Canadian health officials will continue to watch the United States’ epidemic and trajectory to see whether it will be appropriate come June 21 to lift restrictions or continue to maintain them.
Further, she said that even when international travel can resume, the 14-day mandatory quarantine and follow up enforcement of that order will remain “a cornerstone” of the disease control measures.
“Fundamentally, it’s about ensuring that whatever we do, the system is still able to detect and still able to cope with any introduction,” Tam said.
Canada approaches 91K coronavirus cases; sharp rise in daily deaths due to glitch – Globalnews.ca
Canada’s new coronavirus cases remained in the triple-digit territory for the sixth day in a row, for a total of nearly 91,000 infections.
The vast bulk of the 756 new COVID-19 cases stem from Quebec and Ontario, which collectively account for a majority of the national death toll and caseload. More than 48,000 people are considered recovered so far across Canada.
The death toll rose by 221 on Sunday — but 165 of these were fatalities that date back several days.
This is because Quebec reported a sharp rise in deaths — 202 in total — on Sunday due to a technical glitch. Only 37 of these deaths were from the last 24 hours, while the rest of the fatalities date back several days and weren’t taken into account earlier due to technical issues.
That leaves Sunday’s daily death toll, using figures from the past 24 hours, at 57 — the lowest it’s been since early April. The overall death toll stands at 7,295.
Quebec, the hardest-hit province in Canada, saw 408 new cases, bringing its total to more than 51,000 cases, including more than 16,000 recoveries. More than 4,600 people have died.
Ontario announced 326 new cases of COVID-19, and 19 new deaths, bringing figures to more than 27,800 cases and 2,266 deaths. More than 21,000 cases are deemed recoveries.
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Alberta reported 18 new cases and no new deaths. The province has now seen more than 7,000 cases of COVID-19, with 89 per cent of them recovered so far. The death toll stands at 143. Stage 1 of the provincial reopening plan launches Monday. Anyone in Alberta can get tested for COVID-19, symptoms or not.
New Brunswick reported three new cases on Sunday. All are at a long-term care home, in people aged between 80 and 89.
The province was almost clear of all its COVID-19 cases until a new cluster appeared in Campbellton region, after a doctor who visited Quebec earlier in May did not self-isolate upon return. The community now has 12 active cases, while 120 prior cases throughout the province are considered resolved.
Saskatchewan reported one new case, for a total of 646 cases, and one new death, raising its death toll to 11. More than 580 people have recovered.
No new cases
Nova Scotia reported no new cases and deaths, as did Newfoundland and Labrador. There are 1,056 cases in Nova Scotia, including 15 active cases. Sixty people have died and the majority of fatalities are connected to one long-term care home in Halifax.
The coronavirus pandemic is changing the face of palliative care in Quebec
Newfoundland and Labrador remains at 261 cases and three deaths, with 255 recovered and three active.
Manitoba also reported no new cases. The province has 10 active cases left, with nobody hospitalized.
All cases resolved
Prince Edward Island’s 27 cases of COVID-19 have been resolved for some time. The Northwest Territories and the Yukon also have seen all their cases resolved.
Nunavut remains the only region in Canada that has not seen a confirmed case of COVID-19.
British Columbia had no figures to report on Sunday.
Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 6.1 million people and killed more than 371,000. The U.S. accounts for the most number of cases (nearly 1.8 million) and the highest death toll (more than 104,000).
— With files by The Canadian Press
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Canadian Transportation Agency overwhelmed by 2-year backlog of air passenger complaints – CBC.ca
The Canadian Transportation Agency is wrestling with a backlog of nearly 14,000 air passenger complaints accumulated over the past two years, at the same time as thousands of Canadians are demanding the agency help get their money back from flights cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than half of the 26,000 complaints submitted to the CTA from July 2018 to April 2020 are unresolved, according to a response to an order paper question by the NDP tabled in Parliament last week on the number, nature and resolution of passenger complaints.
The bulk of the complaints — which are meant to be addressed within 30 to 120 days — are for disruptions to flights including cancellations, tarmac delays and people being denied boarding.
The backlog doesn’t come as a surprise to Mahesh Krishnamurthy, a Canadian living in the U.S. who flies often and has launched four complaints with the agency over the past 15 years.
“Four complaints, zero resolutions,” Krishnamurthy said. “You know it’s frustrating, but you realize at the end, sometimes that’s what government is.”
Krishnamurthy recently submitted a complaint about an Air Canada flight from New York to Australia, which was meant to depart in April but was cancelled because of travel restrictions. His other complaints have included delays or problems with ticket prices.
Complaints surged after new passenger protections implemented
The CTA told CBC News the vast majority of untouched cases are not tied to the global public health crisis, which largely grounded air travel around the world.
The number of complaints more than doubled after the second wave of air passenger protection regulations came into effect in December 2019, the agency said.
The regulations, first enacted in July 2019, are intended to ensure that both airlines and passengers know what their rights are when it comes to travel setbacks like delays and cancellations. The CTA is an independent, quasi-judicial tribunal and regulator tasked with settling disputes between the customers and airlines.
It simply reflects the challenges of handling a 23-fold leap in demand– Canadian Transportation Agency
“The massive increase in complaint volumes has made it increasingly challenging to meet these standards, despite the mobilization of effort across the organization,” the agency wrote in a statement to CBC News.
“This isn’t for lack of effort or commitment; it simply reflects the challenges of handling a 23-fold leap in demand.”
The agency said it has attempted to tackle the influx of cases by resolving complaints through more informal methods including mediation, launching inquiries to simultaneously clear up common complaints about the same issue and reallocating resources internally.
NDP transport critic Niki Ashton said the backlog shows the agency isn’t doing its job to protect passengers.
“The Canadian government should be stepping up … to make sure that Canadians’ complaints are being heard, are being resolved,” Ashton said.
Thousands of complaints since onset of pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has only added to the mounting pile of complaints.
The CTA says it logged about 5,500 complaints from March 11 to May 28, though it did not disclose what they were about.
The number was revealed as Canadians across the country are calling on the federal government to compel airlines to refund costs for flights they were never able to board. Most Canadian airlines have offered passengers travel vouchers redeemable within two years — something the CTA has said could be reasonable during these extraordinary circumstances.
Ashton, however, believes Ottawa should look harder at compensating those who cancelled their trips.
“That’s something that we know is a huge issue right now,” she said.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Friday that forcing airlines to refund passengers would have a “devastating effect” on an already battered industry.
Meanwhile, the CTA says that while none of its services were suspended because of the pandemic, it did suspend its interactions with airlines about outstanding disputes.
That decision was made to allow carriers “to focus on immediate demands, such as repatriating Canadians stranded abroad, and to adjust their operations in light of plummeting passenger and flight volumes,” the agency said.
The CTA added conversations will resume with airlines starting in July.
CAA: ‘The system is simply clogged up’
The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) — a travel agency and consumer group that originally pushed for the passenger protections and took part in the consultation process — said the CTA can’t support passengers if it doesn’t have the staffing or resources to do so.
“We’ve been saying since the start of this process that no matter how good the rules are, if we don’t have good enforcement, it’s simply not going to work,” said CAA spokesperson Ian Jack.
“The system is simply clogged up and not working. If we don’t have a system that people can trust because it’s going to deal with a complaint in a timely fashion, then the system just falls apart and we’re no better off than we were before we pushed to get this airline passenger bill of rights.”
The CTA received temporary funding from the federal government over the past two fiscal years to address the rise in complaints, but the agency was not able to immediately confirm the amount to CBC News. The agency did say it nearly doubled the number of complaints it processed during that time period.
Jack said the next step is to go beyond opposition parties asking questions in Parliament: he wants to see data about complaints and the CTA’s response times made publicly available so consumers can see for themselves if it’s working.
“If people lose trust in the system, they’re never going to come back to it and we’re not going to have an effective air passenger rights regime in this country,” he said.
“By the third or fourth time, you don’t really have any expectations of them actually resolving the complaint,” he said. “You know you’ve got to do it on your own.”
Canada to spend $30M to promote holidays at home amid COVID-19 border closure – Globalnews.ca
Canada will invest $30 million to enable its provinces and territories to promote holidays in their “own back yard” because of the closure of the country’s borders due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Destination Canada, the country’s national marketing body which usually focuses on luring international visitors, is due to announce the new funding later on Sunday, according to a statement seen by Reuters before its official release.
Live updates: Coronavirus in Canada
Canada, which has had more than 7,000 deaths due to COVID-19, has closed its borders to non-essential travel since March, and it is unclear when they will be opened again. Many provinces have also shut down domestic non-essential travel.
Quebec, which shares borders with the U.S. states of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, accounts for more than 60 per cent of the Canadian death toll from the virus, and Ontario, the most populous province, has also been hit hard.
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The closures have hammered the tourism industry. Some 42 per cent of businesses in the accommodation and food sectors have reported revenue drops of more than 50 per cent, according to an April survey of 12,600 businesses.
At the end of 2018, one out of every 11 jobs in Canada was directly tied to travel, according to the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, but in April the unemployment rate in the tourism sector skyrocketed to more than 28 per cent.
Tourism is “a significant economic driver and source of local jobs. It’s also among one of the hardest hit sectors as a result of this pandemic,” Economic Development Minister Melanie Joly, who is responsible for tourism, said in the statement.
The aim is to provide a valuable lifeline to the struggling sector during its peak summer season, Ben Cowan-Dewar, chairman of Destination Canada, said in the statement.
It is the first time Destination Canada has provided funding for domestic marketing, according to a spokesman in Joly’s office. The marketing arm in each of the 10 provinces and three territories will decide exactly how they want to use the money, the spokesman said.
© 2020 Reuters
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