With border closures looming across the European Union and restrictions increasing for air travel into and around North America, Canada’s federal government is urging all Canadians who are currently travelling out of the country to come home now — before they get stuck abroad.
Global Affairs Canada issued a new official global travel advisory on Saturday in response to escalating problems caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic, writing in a statement that Canadians should avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice.
“To limit the spread of COVID-19, many countries have put in place travel or border restrictions and other measures such as movement restrictions and quarantines,” reads the advisory.
“Airlines have cancelled flights. New restrictions may be imposed with little warning,” it continues. “Your travel plans may be severely disrupted and you may be forced to remain outside of Canada longer than expected.”
The government is advising citizens abroad to find out which commercial airline options are still available where they’re travelling, and to consider returning home earlier than planned if said options are becoming limited.
“We recommend that Canadian travellers return to Canada via commercial means while they remain available,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne on Saturday.
In a follow up statement issued Sunday, Champagne noted that those in need of consular assistance can contact Global Affairs Canada’s Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa, and that all Canadians abroad should register with the Registry of Canadians Abroad (ROCA).
“We continue to advise Canadians to avoid all travel on cruise ships,” he said. “Returning travelers, follow the Public Health Agency guidelines regarding self-isolation.”
Champagne said that flights out of the U.S. into Canada are operating regularly as of Sunday.
U.S. President Donald Trump has, however, suspended all travel to the U.S. from 28 European countries. The travel ban, announced on Wednesday, went into effect for most of these countries on Saturday.
The World Health Organization was reporting on Sunday morning that 142,539 people had been infected with the 2019 novel coronavirus. Nearly 5,400 people have now died as a result of contracting the virus.
“Europe has now become the epicenter of the pandemic, with more reported cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, apart from China,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Saturday.
“More cases are now being reported every day than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic.”