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Canada closes borders to most foreigners to fight COVID-19 spread

Efforts are to reduce spread of coronavirus pandemic
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (via Submitted)

Canada is officially closing its borders due to concerns of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced this morning (March 16), from coast-to-coast-to-coast, the country will not allow people to cross a border who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents, with exceptions for diplomats, flight crews and U.S. citizens.

Trudeau said at a news conference outside Rideau Cottage, where his family is also self-isolated as his wife Sophie was tested positive for COVID-19, that the pandemic is moving at a faster pace.

"Canada is no exception," he said, "The response is based on science and evidence as well as input from world-class health professionals and authorities. Our goal is to keep Canadians as protected and supported as possible."

Domestic flights will not be affected and only four airports across the nation will accept international flights, including Vancouver (YVR), Calgary, Toronto (Pearson) and Montreal (Trudeau).

Flights from the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean, and trade-related flights, will not be affected.

"We recognize that the level of integration of our two economies ... puts the U.S. in a separate category from the rest of the world," said Trudeau, who added that he has been in close communication with American counterparts.

The United States had 1,678 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of today, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Trudeau reminded Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside of the country, and urged Canadians abroad to return home via commercial means "while it is still possible to do so."

Canadians abroad who need to come home will have access to financial support to cover basic needs. 

Trudeau also says Canadians should avoid non-essential travel outside of the country until further notice.

"Let me be clear, if you're abroad, it's time to come home. When you do, you must quarantine yourself for 14 days. All Canadians, as much as possible should stay home."

He adds airlines will be given the power to ban all travellers from coming onto a plane that show symptoms of COVID-19.

In addition, Trudeau announced $10 billion to help businesses across Canada affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the weekend, the number of confirmed cases in Canada leapt 73%, to 341 from 197.

Since Friday (March 13), a number of governments around the world have announced largely unprecedented measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

- with files from Hayley Woodin, Business In Vancouver