For more on today’s top stories and the spread of the novel coronavirus across the country, please refer to our live updates below throughout the day, as well as our COVID-19 news hub.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, confirmed that the federal government is looking at placing additional measures at Canada’s border that will impact travel.
“We could be bringing in new measures that significantly impede your ability to return to Canada at any given moment without warning,” Trudeau warned.
Blair said that “nothing is off the table” in terms of additional restrictions that could come into effect in the future, with particular concerns about variants of COVID-19 appearing in Canada.
Across the country, 31 cases of the B117 variant, initially detected in the U.K., have been confirmed, in addition to three cases of the B1351 variant, originally identified in South Africa.
“We’re looking at taking whatever steps are necessary to protect Canadians,” Blair said.
“We are looking at a number of measures that can include further restriction on international travel, additional tracing measures, addition quarantine measures and enforcement measures in order to disincentivize and discourage people from making unnecessary trips.”
The public safety and emergency preparedness minister added that there is a “loophole” with the U.S. and more work is being done with the new U.S. administration to establish more symmetry between the measures on both sides of the border.
“A loophole, frankly, does exist because the Americans previously had not placed any restriction on international flights coming into the U.S.,” Blair said. “That concerns us because that restriction is at our land border but not at air travel.”
Both Blair and Trudeau stressed that no one should be travelling right now, even for spring break, including domestic travel.
“No one should be taking a vacation abroad right now,” the prime minister said. “If you’ve got one planned, cancel it.”
“If you were thinking about travelling across the country for spring break, now’s not the time. We must get through to the spring and mass vaccinations in the best shape possible.”
Since the federal government implemented pre-departure COVID-19 testing earlier this month, for all people arrive in Canada by air, at least 50,000 flight reservations have been cancelled.
‘Challenging’ vaccine distribution on the horizon
While COVID-19 cases continue to increase in Canada, Trudeau has spoken to the CEO of Pfizer and confirmed that deliveries of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the next few weeks “will be challenging.”
“That said, Dr. [Albert] Bourla assured me that hundred of thousands of Pfizer doses will be delivered the week of Feb. 15 and the weeks to follow,” the prime minister said.
“We’re working around the clock to get as many vaccines as we can as fast as we can. It’s what I’m thinking about when I wake up in the morning, when I go to bed and every hour in between.”
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, confirmed that Canada has seen 90 reports of adverse events following COVID-19 vaccinations, but stressed they were all not necessarily caused by the vaccine. A total of 26 were considered “serious,” including severe allergic reaction. None of the adverse events were unexpected.