The Prime Minister says he’s supportive of provinces and territories closing their borders in order to protect their residents from the spread of COVID-19.
Justin Trudeau’s comments to CBC Radio came a day after B.C. Premier John Horgan indicated he is considering restricting travel to and from the province to help stem the third wave of the pandemic.
Trudeau, asked Wednesday on CBC’s Daybreak South whether he would support such a move by Horgan, said he has already backed similar pandemic travel restrictions elsewhere in the country.
“Every step of the way, I’ve been supporting premiers and territorial leaders on what they need to do to keep people safe,” the Prime Minster said.
“As we saw with the Atlantic bubble, as we saw with the the Arctic territories, they make decisions around closing off the regions. That is something that we are supportive of.”
He said the federal government’s role is to help make those decisions easier for provinces by providing income assistance and financial supports for businesses.
On Tuesday, Horgan told reporters the possibility of travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet. Those talks will also likely examine the status of bookings for hotels, bed and breakfasts and camping sites.
“We’ve not taken anything off the table, but practicality is first and foremost in our mind,” said Horgan.
“We will use the tools that are available to us if we believe they are effective, but deployment of those tools is a challenge. We haven’t taken travel restrictions off the board, quite frankly.”
Possible restrictions coming Thursday
The premier said Henry will provide any update of possible new restrictions Thursday, during a briefing in which the province’s latest COVID-19 modelling data will be presented.
Tuesday’s announcement was made less than a week after Horgan told CBC’s On The Island he had no plans to further restrict travel, at least within B.C. — and that while it was “absolutely outrageous” for people to be travelling between the B.C. mainland and Vancouver Island, and while he did have the power to restrict ferry travel, he was not planning to.
“What do we do? Arrest them?” said Horgan about people choosing to vacation while the coronavirus continues to spread.
More than 1,500 people have died in B.C. due to COVID-19 and case numbers and hospitalizations have surged in recent weeks. Provincial Health Minister Adrian Dix has warned high occupancy rates are beginning to affect the surgical capacity of local hospitals in some parts of the province.
B.C. health officials are particularly concerned about the P1 variant of the virus, first detected in Brazil. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has confirmed some of those cases can be traced to travelling Canadians.
“It was likely that visitors from other parts of Canada initially introduced that strain,” said Henry. She also said that some cases have been traced back to people who visited Whistler in February.
Vaccines supply and safety
As thousands of Canadians across the country wait for their chance to queue up for a vaccine shot, Trudeau said the federal government will have 44 million doses available by Canada Day — enough for everyone to have their first dose.
“It depends on what the provinces actually lay out in terms of [a] vaccination schedule, but we’re optimistic that we’re going to get great numbers vaccinated in the coming weeks and months,” he said.
Two vaccines — AstraZeneca-Oxford and Johnson & Johnson — have caused concerns after reports of potentially dangerous blood clots in people who received them. The United States has currently hit pause on use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and Trudeau said on Tuesday that Canada is “closely monitoring” that decision.
Trudeau told Daybreak South listeners Wednesday it is still much safer to take a vaccine and be protected from COVID-19 than to worry about “extraordinarily rare” side-effects.
“We’re still encouraging everyone to get whatever vaccine is offered to you,” he said.
According to the Prime Minister, Canada is currently third among the G20 countries in terms of how many first dose vaccinations have been administered thus far.