Today, John Ossowski, President of the Canada Border Services Agency, made the following statement regarding new measures at the border to address COVID-19:
“The Canada Border Services Agency and its over 8,000 frontline officers have implemented new travel restrictions across all ports of entry in all modes of transportation – land, sea, air and rail. The health and safety of Canadians is vital. At the same time, borders remain open for commercial and business operations; the Agency will continue to facilitate the flow of goods. The CBSA is fully prepared to process all commercial goods for entry.
The CBSA is committed to protecting Canadians by working aggressively to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Canada. At the front lines, our border services officers are consummate professionals, trained to ensure the health and safety of Canadians and Canada’s economic interests.
As part of an overall Government of Canada approach, based on scientific evidence and the advice of health professionals, the CBSA is working closely with other government partners, including the Public Health Agency of Canada, as well as allies, such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection, to confront the rapidly developing outbreak. Recently, the Agency has bolstered its capacity and heightened its operational posture at all points of entry into Canada. Further measures being taken include:
- Canada and the U.S. have agreed to take the step of temporarily restricting non-essential travel across our shared border. This new measure took effect at 12:01 a.m. EDT on Saturday, March 21, 2020 and will be in place for 30 days, at which point it will be reviewed by both parties;
- Essential travel continues unimpeded. It is absolutely necessary to keep the economy moving at this time without disruption in order to bring essential goods to market and maintain integrated supply chains. These supply chains ensure that food, fuel, and life-saving medicines reach people on both sides of the border;
- Travel by healthy individuals who need to cross the border for work purposes or to access necessary services is also permitted, provided they have not been outside of Canada or the U.S. in the previous 14 days;
- Increased health screening measures have been implemented at all ports of entry and include new broad based health screening questions and guidance on self-isolation.
- No foreign national with signs or symptoms of respiratory illness are permitted entry;
- All travellers coming into Canada are subject to a new mandatory requirement to self-isolate for 14 days, whether or not they have signs and symptoms of COVID-19. For those arriving by air, this is being communicated at multiple points, including by air lines themselves before departure, signage at airports and an increased presence of CBSA officers. For those arriving by land, sea or rail, Border Services Officers are posing questions verbally and providing written documentation to each traveler;
- Workers that cross the border on a regular basis, such as truck drivers, firefighters and medical workers, as well as travellers who enter Canada to receive essential services, will continue will be exempt from the new requirement for mandatory isolation provided they are asymptomatic. Healthy workers who provide essential services, maintain critical infrastructure, and ensure economic supply chains continue between Canada and the U.S. will also be able to cross the border. Individuals exempt from mandatory isolation will, however, be required to continually self monitor and practice proper self isolation measures when not performing their duties;
- Canada and the U.S. have entered into a reciprocal arrangement to direct back individuals who cross our border at irregular points of entry. Exceptions may be made for unique circumstances, such as an unaccompanied minor, but generally persons crossing our borders at irregular points of entry will be directed back;
- CBSA officers will observe for signs of illness and refer any traveller suspected of being ill for a further medical assessment by the Public Health Agency of Canada, regardless of how travellers respond to screening questions;
- Anyone who is not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident is not being permitted to enter Canada by air, unless they are travelling for essential purposes and have not been outside of Canada or the U.S. in the previous 14 days. Other specific exemptions also apply;
- All international flights are being funnelled to four Canadian airports (Toronto-Pearson, Montreal-Trudeau, Vancouver International and Calgary International);
- Airlines are required to prevent any traveller who presents symptoms from boarding a flight to Canada; air carriers are also required to conduct in-flight monitoring of passengers for potential symptoms;
- All travellers assessed in the air to be symptomatic on arrival at a Canadian airport are met and escorted by border officers away from other travellers to be attended to by public health personnel;
- CBSA officers are providing symptomatic travellers with surgical masks and instructions on how to use them; and,
- Teams of roving border officers have been deployed to all Canadian airports as part of a greater officer presence; this is complemented by increased signage for passenger awareness.
While CBSA officers remain vigilant and are continuing their efforts to identify travellers seeking entry into Canada who may pose a health and safety risk, they perform screening functions and rely on health professionals to undertake actual health assessments. For example, PHAC officials conduct assessments of symptomatic travellers, potentially taking their temperature.
As President, I am extremely proud of the dedicated work that our Agency and border services officers do every day to help keep Canadians safe and healthy. We all have a part to play responding to this serious public health issue. As an Agency, we will continue to take aggressive action to support Canada’s efforts during this pandemic.”