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With pandemic surging globally, PM says health top priority in any border reopening plans
OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that Canada will have to be “very, very careful” about eventually easing off travel restrictions for international travellers, citing public health over the economy as the top concern.
“As we look at those next steps we need to make sure we are keeping Canadians safe, first and foremost,” said the prime minister on Monday.
This comes one day after a record number of new COVID-19 cases was reported worldwide, with 183,020 new cases being reported in a single day. That figure also represents the largest one-day increase on record.
“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,” Trudeau said, citing pressure from some tourism industries, such as airlines and certain regions of Canada that depend on attracting international visitors, to allow some international travel to happen this summer.
“But we are going to be very, very careful about when and how we start reopening international borders,” he said.
In March, the federal government announced it was shutting the border to non-Canadian citizens, with limited exceptions, to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and made it mandatory for all travellers arriving Canada to go into self-isolation for 14 days.
On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said "the pandemic is still accelerating."
He warned that the pandemic is being worsened by political opposition, saying “the lack of global solidarity and global leadership" represents a greater threat to the world than the virus itself.
There have now been more than 8.8 million cases of COVID-19 confirmed around the world, as well as more than 465,000 deaths, Tedros said.
Among the countries seeing rapid increases in new cases is the United States, which despite many states easing restrictions, still has the world’s highest number of reported infections, with more than 2.2 million and more than 120,000 dead.
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam was asked on Monday whether the rate of spread in the United States should mean that the Canada-U.S. border should remain closed past the current extension of the restrictions.
In response, she said that Canadian health authorities are keeping a close eye on the epidemiology in the United States.
“If the numbers keeps going up, that's going to definitely inform what might happen next at the border,” Dr. Tam said.
As of midday Monday, there had been more than 101,000 cases and more than 8,400 COVID-19-related deaths reported in Canada.
With files from CTV News’ Ryan Flanagan and The Associated Press