Ontario Premier Doug Ford is "frustrated" with the federal government's handling of the borders and has once again vowed to introduce COVID-19 testing at Ontario’s airports.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference on Monday (Dec. 21), Ford took aim at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, saying, “If there’s one area that we need to improve, it’s at our borders.”
“We’ve been in talks with the federal government for weeks upon weeks about doing testing at the airport,” Ford said. “We’ve been great partners. We’ve collaborated all the way. Why they’re ignoring us on this is beyond me.”
The Premier noted how 64,000 international travellers passed through Toronto Pearson International Airport last week and left “basically unchecked.”
“These folks are roaming the streets and we’re letting it happen,” said Ford. “…As the Prime Minister’s favourite saying is, there’s a hole in the roof. Well, Prime Minister, I can tell you, at Pearson International, there is no roof. It’s pouring in.”
The criticism comes as Premier Ford announced that Ontario will move into a lockdown, starting on Boxing Day (Dec. 26), in a bid to curb spiking COVID-19 case numbers.
The lockdown begins at 12:01 a.m. that day and will remain in place until at least Jan. 23, 2021.
Borders are “like a spaghetti drainer"
Ford’s frustration towards the Trudeau government for not testing international travellers at airports also comes following reports of a new strain of the coronavirus in Britain – news that, on Sunday (Dec. 20), led Ottawa to suspend all flights from the United Kingdom for 72 hours.
A reporter on Monday noted the many international flights that continue to land at Canadian airports.
“Our borders are like a sieve,” Ford said. “Like a spaghetti drainer…[travellers] aren’t getting checked.”
The Premier was also certain that many international travellers are not following Canada’s mandatory 14-day quarantine requirements.
“We will be doing tests at Pearson airport with cooperation (hopefully) with the 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.
The Premier added that Ontario has “COVID hotels ready to go” if, for instance, a traveller was to test positive at the airport and required a place to self-isolate.
Ontario’s recommendation to Ottawa is to test international travellers at airports when they land, have them quarantine for seven days, and then test them again, he said.
“If the Prime Minister doesn’t want to do it, I’m gonna do it,” said Ford. “I’m not going to put the people of Ontario at risk just because the federal government doesn’t want to do tests.”
“Time will tell, but I’m not waiting for the federal government, or I’ll be waiting forever."
"We’re going out there, we’re going to start testing people at the airports.”
Canada's Health Minister Patty Hadju responded to Ford's comments on Monday, telling media that airports and international travel are not to blame for rising COVID-19 cases.
"The strong travel restrictions and border measures in place in Canada since March 2020 are working," Minister Hadju told the Toronto Star. "Only 1.3% of all known COVID-19 cases in Ontario have originated from travel outside the country."
“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.”
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