Trudeau government sends mixed signals on the border
Canadians can be forgiven for not knowing up from down on how our government should handle the coronavirus.
We don’t need travel bans, but we should avoid all non-essential travel.
We can’t stop the coronavirus at the border, but the Trudeau government is now talking about limiting flights and increasing screening at airports.
To say the government is sending out mixed messages is an understatement.
Now, after a major spike in cases, the federal government is moving to deal with issues at the border.
“We intend to reduce the number of airports bringing in overseas flights,” Trudeau said while announcing that there would also be extra screening measures for incoming flights.
“We are also looking at countries of origins and other measures we can take.”
It’s strange to hear the prime minister say that, considering we’ve been told for months by his cabinet ministers and officials that stopping flights or adding screening would not help stop the spread of this virus.
Yet, here are the facts.
According to Public Health Canada, 80% of the 152 cases as of Friday morning are the result of people who travelled out of country and brought the virus back with them.
That includes the original cases from China, and Trudeau’s own wife Sophie who contracted the virus on a trip to England earlier this week.
Of the rest, 10% are from close contact with travellers, while the final 10% are from unknown or community transmission.
This is something we have imported, and continue to import, into Canada — it’s not racist or bigoted to say this.
While this virus originated in China, we’ve brought it into the country from Iran, Egypt, France, the United States, Germany and elsewhere.
Travellers to Egypt have been the source of a number of cases, and yet there are no extra screening measures for people coming into Canada from that country.
Italy — a country that shut itself down last week — was only added to the list requiring extra screening a few days ago.
Canadians are right to wonder if these extra screening measures are needed now, why weren’t they needed six weeks ago when all of this started?
Canadians are also right to wonder why they are being told to cancel out-of-country vacations, but were told we couldn’t possibly stop incoming flights from hotspots earlier.
“Viruses don’t know borders. A border is not going to contain the virus,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Friday.
She added that borders are a prime location for spreading information about what to do if someone does become ill.
Hajdu said handing out local public health numbers to those who become sick is an important measure.
Perhaps, but my attempts over the past three days to speak to somebody at Toronto Public Health about getting testing proved fruitless thanks to their swamped phone systems.
“We are advising people to avoid all unnecessary travel, in particular to international destinations,” Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said.
In addition, Blair warned that those who come to Canada from affected areas will be screened.
“If they do have to come here they will be subject to significantly enhanced screening,” Blair said.
I have to say that on the whole, the Trudeau government has handled this issue well — aside from the border.
They have put medical professionals in charge of many decisions, and kicked off an economic response that started with a $1 billion aid package and will grow.
Yet on the border they have been slow to act and slow to change tactics. That means more cases coming into Canada, more people wandering the streets, going to work, taking public transit while infected.
At a time when clarity is needed, the Trudeau government has provided anything but that on the border.