Feds have brought home over 8,000 stranded Canadians amid COVID-19 pandemic
OTTAWA -- In its push to bring home Canadians stranded abroad amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has so far repatriated more than 8,000 Canadian citizens and permanent residents on 56 flights.
Those numbers, which were provided to CTVNews.ca through a source from Global Affairs Canada, are also likely to increase, though the source wouldn't say by how much.
"As the situation is fluid, and as other flights may be announced in the coming days, it is not possible to provide exact information on how many Canadians are set to/will return, how many and from which countries," the source said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne confirmed on Thursday that there are flights scheduled to bring home Canadians from around the world in the next few days.
"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 during a Thursday press conference, while speaking in French.
In a press release sent to CTVNews.ca Friday evening, Global Affairs said 385,182 people are registered with the government as currently being abroad. As a result, Global Affairs said the government won't be able to help everyone.
"Unfortunately, it will not be possible to ensure the return of all Canadians who wish to come home," the release reads.
"Canadians that are unable to return to Canada should monitor local media and follow local public health advice on lockdown or shelter-in-place guidance."
For the Canadians that are able to make it home, they will be forced to follow a strict self-isolation period of 14 days — a message that was reiterated in the Friday press release. These Canadians must travel straight home from the airport, without any stops to grocery stores, pharmacies or any other public spaces.
That isolation period is extremely important, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has warned that these returning Canadians 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."
It's a concern that was echoed on Friday by Dr. Peter Donnelly, President and Chief Executive Officer of Public Health Ontario.
While providing the modelling on the potential course the COVID-19 outbreak could take in the province, he explained that the number of cases will be impacted by travellers returning home — such as snowbirds returning from the United States.
"It's very clear that in many parts of the Untied States, this disease is highly prevalent. So many of these people, again quite innocently, can travel back from the United States and perhaps don’t realize that they are carrying the disease," Donnelly said.
"This is why these people must, must stay at home for two weeks. They must go directly to their home when they come from the airport or other port of entry. They should not be stopping to do shopping or anything else on the way home."
While travellers were initially to blame for the vast majority of transmissions of COVID-19, community spread has now overtaken travel as the way most Canadians contract the illness, according to Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam.This shift in the transmission of the disease underscores the importance for all Canadians, not just those retuning from travel, to self-isolate and physically distance themselves from others as much as they possibly can, according to health officials.
Canada has over 12,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 178 deaths. Just over 2,100 people have recovered.