Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says that just 1.8 per cent of all COVID-19 cases in Canada are connected to international travel, debunking recent criticism that Canada’s border controls are too relaxed.
Speaking to journalists on Tuesday (Dec. 22), Minister Blair defended Canada’s approach in securing its borders against COVID-19, firing back at comments made by Ontario Premier Doug Ford earlier this week.
At a press conference on Monday (Dec. 21), Premier Ford blasted Ottawa over its handling of the borders, expressing frustration with the Trudeau government for not doing enough to prevent COVID-19 from entering the country.
He specifically targeted Ottawa for not moving fast enough on introducing COVID-19 testing at airports.
“Our borders are like a sieve,” Ford told reporters. “Like a spaghetti drainer…[travellers] aren’t getting checked.”
Ford once again vowed to implement testing at Toronto Pearson International Airport, with or without the federal government’s support.
“…I’m not waiting for the federal government, or I’ll be waiting forever,” Ford said.
Minister Blair, however, defended Canada’s strategy the next day, arguing that Canada’s border controls, and 14-day quarantine requirement for returning travellers, are among the strongest in the world.
"Over the past few days, we've heard a number of comments which, frankly, are an unfortunate misrepresentation of what is actually happening at our borders," Blair told reporters on Tuesday. "COVID-19 cases related to international travel currently account for only 1.8 per cent of all cases. That means 98.2 per cent of COVID transmissions are a result of community transmissions, not international travel."
Canada's deputy chief public health officer, Dr. Howard Njoo, later said that community transmission is the biggest problem right now, not travel.
“It's not really the importation of cases," Dr. Njoo told journalists.
Canada's Health Minister Patty Hadju echoed a similar statement, telling the Toronto Star that the “strong travel restrictions and border measures in place in Canada since March 2020 are working.”
“With a 14-day quarantine in place, our border measures are some of the strongest in the world...We will continue to use research and science to inform any next steps on border measures,” said Minister Hadju.
Premier Ford said his government will unveil COVID-19 testing at Pearson airport, “hopefully” with cooperation from the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA).
“And if they don’t want to help us, we’ll be doing R.I.D.E. checks on the side of the road as people exit,” said Ford.
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