Canada toughens coronavirus screening, Trudeau under pressure to tighten borders

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada imposed tougher screening requirements for visitors on Monday in a bid to contain a coronavirus outbreak, but came under pressure from the most populous province, which suggested borders should be shut.

As of 9 a.m. ET (1300 GMT), health officials were reporting around 320 cases of COVID-19 across all 10 provinces. One person has died from the respiratory illness in Canada so far.

The Canada Border Services Agency said all travelers arriving from any international destination would now need confirm they knew they were being asked to self-isolate for 14 days following their trip.

Some visitors who flew into Canada over the weekend told reporters they had not undergone any screening.

Doug Ford, the premier of Ontario, said he was very concerned by the reports and said Ottawa needed to tighten up the border.

“I’d be OK with closing the border to visitors, not to trade and commerce,” Ford told reporters.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault said on Sunday the frontiers should be shut.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday said he would not rule out such a move, while the nation’s chief medical officer said time was running out to prevent a spike in cases. [L1N2B8071]

Ontario, which accounts for nearly half of the confirmed illnesses, said it would delay its March 25 budget and instead deliver an economic and fiscal update.

“These are unprecedented times … the reality is, we’re facing some tough waters ahead,” Ford said.

Trudeau will speak with his counterparts in the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations. Officials said he will announce additional measures when he speaks to reporters at 1 p.m. ET (1700 GMT).

He also said his Liberal government would soon announce a major stimulus package to help those hit by the outbreak.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau said last Friday that Canada would reroute international arrivals to a handful of airports. The French-language La Presse newspaper cited sources as saying only Toronto, Calgary, Montreal and Vancouver would be able to process flights from abroad.

Ottawa is urging Canadians not to travel outside the country and says citizens who are abroad should return home via commercial means.

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