Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government is going to be "very, very careful" about reopening any kind of international travel, including to the United States, as the May 21 expiration date for current border measures between the two countries draws nearer.
In preparation for other countries taking steps to relax their physical distancing measures and move toward reopening their economies, Trudeau says Canada is looking into stronger measures for travellers.
"We're going to continue to be very careful about vectors of infection into Canada, that means continuing with restrictions on international travel," Trudeau said, speaking from the front steps of Rideau Cottage on Tuesday.
"We are looking at stronger measures to make sure that we're following up appropriately on people [coming] over, because as we know, as economic activity starts to ramp up, as restrictions get loosened across countries, it is likely that we see a few more people either returning home or … trying to cross the border."
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam noted that the situation in the United States presents a risk to Canadians in the fight against COVID-19.
"Of course the United States being one country that still has cases and is still trying to manage outbreaks, and they present a risk to Canada from that perspective, so we have to take that into account," she said, speaking at a press conference Tuesday.
Trudeau said that discussions are ongoing with the Americans about a variety of issues, including the border, and that he will have more to say on that matter "in the coming days."
He added that even after getting our own outbreak under control, a key aspect of avoiding a second wave of the virus spreading through our country is being cautious when it comes to travellers entering Canada.
"Preventing transmission from outside of Canada into Canada once we have controlled the spread within Canada would be an essential part of ensuring that we don't fall back into a second wave that could be as serious as this wave we’re going through or even more so," Trudeau said.
"So we're going to be very, very careful about reopening any international travel, including the United States, before we feel that it is time."
Some premiers have been outspoken in their opposition to any of Canada's international borders reopening anytime soon. Ontario Premier Doug Ford told reporters May 8 that he has concerns, and other premiers feel the same way.
"I do not want those borders open," Ford said.
British Columbia's provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has also spoken up about the issue, saying the idea of any "broad" reopening "is not in our best interest."
Politicians in the province shared Henry’s view, and B.C. Health Minister Adrain Dix said he has "repeatedly" passed these concerns onto the prime minister.
"It is our view that the border should not open for visitors at this time. It would make no sense to have visitors travelling either from Canada to the U.S. and returning," Dix said.
Meanwhile, as concerns grow about the future of travel into Canada, the government announced some new measures on Tuesday to help foreigners who are currently stuck in Canada.
Some temporary foreign workers found themselves without work and unable to return home as the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on the job market and tightened borders around the world. Now, the government says it's eliminating the waiting period for these temporary foreign workers who are already in Canada to begin working after securing a new contract. This means that while a worker would normally have to wait for a permit to be issued for them to begin working after landing a new job, workers will now be able to start much sooner.
"This will cut what can often take 10 weeks or more, down to 10 days or less," read a press release from Immigration Canada, sent out on Tuesday.
With files from The Canadian Press