Feds to formally deny plane, train boardings to symptomatic travellers

It will be up to airline and train companies to enforce new rules banning travellers with COVID-19 symptoms from boarding | Shutterstock

What happened: New Transport Canada rules deny passengers from boarding flights and trains if they exhibit COVID-19 symptoms

Why it matters: The rules are meant to stave off the spread of the coronavirus throughout the country

Canadians exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 will be formally stopped from boarding domestic flights and inter-city trains as of Monday (March 30).

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it would be up to companies operating those services to enforce Transport Canada’s new rules.

“We are giving further tools to airlines and rail companies to ensure that anyone exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms does not travel,” he told reporters Saturday (March 28) during his daily briefing.

“We are asking Canadians and telling Canadians they need to remain home. They must, as much as possible, avoid non-essential travel. This is something that is essential if we’re going to get through this together.”

Trudeau, who was speaking outside his home in Ottawa in the Eastern Time Zone, said the new rules would go into effect by “noon” Monday.

Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said during a later briefing that airline and rail companies will “have to do their best” to enforce the new rules.

He acknowledged there’s no guarantee those companies will be able to identify all passengers with symptoms as some might try to mask their symptoms, for example, by taking Tylenol to reduce a fever.

“The bottom line: it really is a collective responsibility,” Njoo said.

“If you’re sick, stay home.”

Those travelling by bus between cities and provinces do not face the same restrictions.

The prime minister said the government is not considering tightening up inter-provincial borders in the short term, noting that there are people that need to travel to deliver food and other essential goods.

“We will make those decisions as they’re needed to be made but right now we are not looking at closing provincial borders,” Trudeau.

The new restrictions were announced the day after Ottawa unveiled new measures aimed at helping small businesses weather the pandemic, including boosting a previously announced wage subsidy from 10% to 75%.

The government is also introducing a new program that will allow banks to offer $40,000 loans guaranteed by government to eligible businesses that come interest-free for the first year.  Under certain conditions, $10,000 of the loan will be forgivable.

More details about the measures are expected the same day the new travel restrictions go into effect.

“Increasing the wage subsidy to 75% means businesses across the country are now realizing they’re going to be able to keep people on the payroll … and even re-hire people they didn’t think they’d be able to support over the last two weeks,” Trudeau said.

Changes to the wage subsidy are being backdated to March 15.