Vancouver International Airport gears up for changes as Canada closes borders

Severe reduction in people entering Canada is expected

YVR construction
Vancouver International Airport will be one of four airports that will be open to flights from most of the world | Glen Korstrom

What happened: Airport procedures across Canada are set to change following the government's announcement that it will close its borders to most foreign nationals starting March 18 at 9 a.m. Pacfic Daylight Time.

Why this matters: Any reduction in visitors will mean less spending in the Canadian economy, spurring a hit to tourism and hospitality-related businesses.

The intent of the action is to slow the spread of the global COVID-19 pandemic that has so far infected 179,073 and killed 7,074 people, according to Johns Hopkins University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

Exceptions include diplomats, flight crews, essential service workers and U.S. citizens, as well as family members of those groups. All people who do enter the country are required to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival. All will be asked what their health is like and if they have been informed of the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days. They will have to indicate that they have received this information before they are allowed to leave the airport. 

All flights, except those from within Canada, the U.S., Mexico, the Caribbean and Saint Pierre and Miquelon will be funnelled to four airports: Vancouver International Airport (YVR), Calgary International Airport (YYC), Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYC) and Montreal Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL). 

"The direct result of the measures that have been taken limiting non-Canadian travellers coming in from international destinations, there will be significantly fewer people that have to be processed but we are taking measures in processing areas and in the hallways approaching them to ensure that proper social distancing is practiced there," said Canada's Minister of Public Safety, Bill Blair.

All airlines are mandated to screen for symptoms of COVID-19.

Canada Border Services Agency officers will have masks for people who are symptomatic, Blair said.

"People who are symptomatic as they arrive will be led right to the gate and not put into those processing areas," he said.

He expects that processing areas at airports will be regularly cleaned and disinfected to make sure that they are safe and healthy environments.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau said he was in touch with representatives of Canada's four main airports last night to express the importance of having people be socially distanced from each other, or kept about six feet from each other. He said that he also stressed the importance of disinfecting areas.

YVR sent Business in Vancouver a statement to say that it is aware of the border-closure situation and the restrictions on who can enter Canada. It did not immediately say how its processes will change. 

"This is an evolving situation and we will provide further updates as we work through the details and next steps," it said.

B.C. now has had 103 cases of the virus and a total of four deaths. That is up from 73 cases and only one death on Saturday. The new deaths are all at the Lynn Valley Care Centre, which is the largest cluster of cases of the disease in the province. Six people are in hospital, with the rest being in self-isolation. Five people have fully recovered.

gkorstrom@biv.com

@GlenKorstrom