Trudeau warns Canadians returning from abroad pose 'real risk' to entire country
OTTAWA -- As the government pushes to repatriate Canadians stuck abroad amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is warning that they could be a real danger to the rest of the country.
"They pose a real risk, not just to their neighbours and their loved ones, but to our entire country. We need to ensure and we will ensure that those people are properly isolated," Trudeau said Thursday, speaking from self-isolation on the front steps of Rideau Cottage.
"We've received many, many Canadians who have returned home over the past couple of weeks, there is still a few more to come."
Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne provided more details on these reparations later the same day, sharing in a press conference that the government has returned "thousands of Canadians" on over 40 flights from roughly 30 countries.
"In coming days, other flights will allow Canadians to return from Peru, Colombia, India, Pakistan, Poland, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, and from various African countries," Champagne said, speaking in French.
These repatriated Canadians will be forced to follow a strict self-isolation period of 14 days. They must travel straight home from the airport, without any stops to grocery stores, pharmacies or any other public spaces.
When the outbreak first erupted, travel was by far the biggest source of spread for the virus, with the majority of cases tracing back to other countries. However, just over a week ago, community spread increased.
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said at the time that this demonstrated a "fundamental shift" in the transmission of the disease within Canada.
"Cases are almost now an equal mix between travellers who were exposed to the virus outside of Canada and their close contact, as well as cases that were exposed in the community setting in Canada," said Tam on March 24.
Still, Trudeau maintained that the risk of transmission from Canadians returning from abroad is still a concern.
"Anyone who returns from overseas needs to be quarantined for 14 days, needs to be isolated so that they do not spread COVID-19 in the population."
For many Canadians fighting to return home, however, they are still grappling with even getting on a plane. One woman, Melissa Chadha, is stranded in India with her husband and infant child. She told CTV News that while the government has provided her family with the option of a special flight home, the above-average $2,900 per person ticket price has left her feeling "bullied."
The government has offered a $5,000 loan for Canadians who are able to demonstrate they couldn't obtain the funds for a flight home in order to assist with their repatriation, but Canadians will still be stuck with the bill at the end of the day.
Similar special flight offers are being made to Canadians trapped abroad in other countries, including Peru, Spain, Honduras, Ecuador, El Salvador and Guatemala.
All of these Canadians will be subject to strict quarantine rules upon their return in a bid to slow the spread of the virus. To date, Canada has recorded over 11,000 cases of COVID-19 and 130 deaths.