Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with Canada’s premiers last night (Dec. 14) to discuss new travel measures as the country faces a spike in COVID-19 cases brought on by the new Omicron variant, multiple reports say.
The virtual meeting follows a federal cabinet meeting that took place earlier today where ministers discussed possible new rules.
One senior official who spoke to The Globe and Mail said the federal government is looking at reviving its advisory against non-essential travel.
That advisory was quietly lifted on Oct. 21 for fully-vaccinated Canadians, marking a return to country-specific risk assessments. (The advisory to avoid all cruise travel, however, remained).
If reintroduced, it could potentially cause serious disruptions as the travel industry picks up for what is set to be the busiest holiday season since the start of the pandemic, as the Canadian Airports Council said this month.
CBC News is also reporting that “high level conversations have been happening in Ottawa today” about implementing more travel restrictions in response to rising COVID-19 case numbers.
Trudeau, on Tuesday, tweeted that he had spoken to British Columbia Premier John Horgan, who is chair of the premiers' national body, the Council of the Federation.
"The two leaders agreed on the urgency of the situation, particularly with the holidays fast approaching," says a summary of the call issued by the Prime Minister's Office, CBC reported.
"They reaffirmed the importance of accelerating the rollout of booster vaccine doses across the country as well as continuing to make progress on vaccinating children."
Travel warnings out of Ottawa have been ramping up in recent weeks.
Last week, on Dec. 10, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said travel abroad is “risky and unstable” due to the arrival of the COVID-19 Omicron variant and, as a result, travellers returning to Canada could face “delays and hassle.”
"Things are happening very quickly outside of Canada,” Minister Duclos told reporters at the time. “So if you think of travelling, that should be a serious alarm bell.”
As of Tuesday evening, the Government of Canada’s website still advises fully vaccinated Canadians to “exercise extra caution” when travelling abroad.
“Be sure to check for information on the presence of this new variant at your destination, which could impact your ability to return to Canada,” the notice reads.
According to the Globe, Minister Duclos told reporters on Tuesday that the government is “very concerned about those that would be traveling abroad.
Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam on Monday said that Canada is heading towards a major COVID-19 outbreak, saying “we need to use everything we have available,” such as rapid tests and booster shots, to prevent another lockdown.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra appeared on CBC’s radio show The Current on Dec. 7 and was asked whether Canadians should feel comfortable travelling this holiday season.
Host Matt Galloway asked Alghabra if the government was hoping people stay home this winter.
“I wish I can give you a blanket response,” Alghabra said, noting that “we're still in a pandemic."
“We need Canadians to be aware that measures could change at any time,” he said. “But we also want to encourage Canadians to get vaccinated, to follow public health and those who are thinking about travelling to really do their research to check travel advice.”
The Government of Canada is expected to make an announcement on travel restrictions today (Dec. 15).
Dr. Peter Juni, the head of Ontario's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, told CBC News that Canadians should be ready to change their travel plans within Canada this holiday season as cases of the Omicron variant escalates across the country.
"If [you] can avoid travel, avoid it," said Dr. Juni told CBC on Wednesday. "We just need to really seriously cut down on our contact."