B.C. health officials are openly questioning Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to exempt American visitors from the closure of Canada’s borders to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said allowing visitors across the border from Washington state is not appropriate, and appealed directly to U.S. visitors to stay away as B.C.’s confirmed cases passed the 100 mark.
“We remain concerned that access from visitors from the United States continues to be allowed, given the situation particularly in Snohomish County in Washington state, which affects British Columbia more than anywhere else,” Dix said Monday.
“It’s our strong view, and our strong message, that visitors from the United States not come to British Columbia. Don’t come, because at this moment, this is the wrong thing to do. We understand that people are being asked to self-isolate, but better than self-isolate for visitors is not to come.”
Trudeau announced Monday that citizens of the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean would still be allowed in, along with people conducting trade and commerce between Canada and the U.S.
Returning Canadian travellers and visitors from other countries were supposed to be told they should self-isolate for 14 days upon their return, but up to this past weekend, passengers at airports were reporting they got no such instructions. Some said they were only asked if they were coming from China or Iran, the two earliest hotspots for coronavirus.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday the situation at airports has improved.
“We know there were challenges over the weekend with the messages that were given out at the airport, but I understand that has been, finally, changed,” Henry said. “Our understanding is that since last night, people are being directed, correctly, to stay in isolation. And this is incredibly important for us.”
— Tom Fletcher (@tomfletcherbc) March 16, 2020
Trudeau appeared more than half an hour late for a news conference in Ottawa Monday morning, where he announced the closing of Canada’s borders to non-citizens, except for U.S. visitors. The federal government has been criticized for weeks for continuing to allow international flights from China, where the novel coronavirus began spreading in late 2019.
Last week, Premier John Horgan called for the Trudeau government to “up their game” on airport and land border screening, noting that travel-related cases show the U.S. has become a greater risk to B.C. than the initial coronavirus hotspots of China and Iran.