Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers his opening remarks during a news conference outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, December 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers his opening remarks during a news conference outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, December 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Returning travellers no longer eligible for the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit: Trudeau

Non-essential travellers will have to quarantine, provide negative COVID test

Travellers returning from non-essential trips abroad will no longer be eligible for the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, Prime Minister Trudeau said during a Tuesday (Jan. 5) press conference.

Trudeau said that the benefit is designed for workers who need to miss work because they are sick or have been exposed to COVID-19 and need to isolate, or have an underlying health condition that makes being at work unsafe. It provides $500 per week, or $450 after tax.

“It is not intended for travellers who are quarantining after they return,” he said.

“Anyone who travelled for non-essential reasons will not be able to access the sickness benefit.”

Trudeau’s words come on the heels of stricter requirements for incoming non-essential travellers. The 14-day quarantine requirement, in place since March, remains in place but starting Thursday incoming travellers will have to provide proof of an approved COVID-19 tests taken within 72 hours of their arrival time.

Trudeau said that politicians who have travelled recently – including from Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Trudeau’s own caucus – have damaged Canadians’ morale and the sense of solidarity that has proven key to adherence to COVID rules.

“As leaders we’ve been encouraging Canadians to continue to do the right thing. It is discouraging to see politicians not do the same thing,” he said.

He said that while vaccines are being rolled out across the country, it will be months yet until even the most vulnerable are vaccinated. Canada is expected to get more than one million doses of both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines by the end of January, and Trudeau said every Canadian who wants a vaccine will be able to get one by September.

At a later press conference Tuesday, chief medical officer Dr. Theresa Tam said that there have now been nine cases of the U.K. variant of the virus found in Canada. This variant is believed to be more infectious than the one currently present in Canada. That virus variant has led to a strict lockdown in the U.K., with people being asked to not leave their homes except for essential work and to get food and medicine.

Tam said Canada is ramping up its genomic sequencing in order to determine how much of the U.K. variant has truly made its way into the country. Generally, Canada has been doing genomic sequencing at a rate of about five per cent of the COVID cases to date. So far, Tam said all nine cases of the variant in Canada have been related to travellers.

“But there’s always a risk,” she said.

Canada, which has multiple provinces under varying degrees of heightened restrictions, has reported about 7,500 new cases each day over the past week.

Tam said it is worrying that while it took Canada until June to hit its first 100,000 cases, it’s taken just two weeks to go from 500,000 to 600,000.

Maj. Gen. Dany Fortin, vice president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, said that 424,500 vaccines were delivered across country in December. The territories, who did not receive the Pfizer vaccine due to logistical challenges, have now been sent 20,400 doses of the Moderna immunizations.

Fortin said that 124,800 doses of the Pfizer vaccine are expected to arrive in Canada this week, with 208,000 arriving per week for the following three weeks. Canada is also expected to get 170,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine for the week of Jan. 11.

Both vaccines require two doses to reach above 90 per cent effectiveness.

“I personally haven’t heard of wastage of vaccines.”

READ MORE: 7 Alberta cabinet ministers, MLAs, staff resign after holiday travels: Kenney

READ MORE: Travel industry ‘in tailspin’ as federal government adopts new COVID-19 test rules


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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