Canada is drastically tightening its borders to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.
Prime MInister Justin Trudeau today said the border will be closed and that only Canadians citizens, Canadian permanent residents and U.S. citizens will be allowed into the country. Immediate family members of Canadians also will be allowed.
He also said planes from international airports will only be allowed to land in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal as of Wednesday, March 18.
Trudeau said Canadian travellers stranded overseas will get assistance to get home.
He also said all Canadians, “as much as possible, should stay home.”
“These measures will save lives,” the Prime Minister said.
It’s an extraordinary move that could help the crisis, but the moves will be a major blow to the Canadian travel and airline industry.
Roughly an hour prior to Trudeau’s speech, Air Canada issued a press release saying it expects its second-quarter capacity to be half the level of the same quarter in 2019. Pacific capacity is expected to drop even more, by 75%.
“To preserve cash, Air Canada is initiating a company-wide cost reduction and capital deferral program, targeting at least $500 million.”
The release didn’t mention layoffs, but officials did note that Air Canada has had an excellent run in the past decade or so.
“Air Canada today has the agility, the team and the route network to successfully navigate through this crisis. Most importantly for business continuity, it also has the necessary financial resources, including a solid balance sheet, record liquidity levels, higher debt ratings based on a low leverage ratio, and a significant pension plan surplus.”
Still, Air Canada talked up the need for federal assistance for the beleaguered airline industry in Canada.
Noting the numerous closures and cancellations of flights around the world, “we believe that the Canadian airline industry should also see similar assistance, whether through forbearance of taxes, landing fees and other charges that form part of the aviation burden in Canada or otherwise until the industry stabilizes. Our industry associations have been and will continue to make these representations to governments. However, we are not awaiting any decision on these measures before implementing our mitigation plan as we believe decisive action is the best course to follow.”
Comments & Discussion
Could Air Bridges and Travel Bubbles Save Europe’s Summer Season?
Some European countries are currently considering the formation of “air bridges” (a.k.a. “travel corridors” or “travel bubbles”), which would enable tourists to travel between destinations that have demonstrated low volumes of COVID-19 cases without the need to undergo the standard, fourteen-day self-quarantine.
All of Europe seems eager to salvage something of its summer holiday season amid ongoing restrictions aimed at reducing the global spread of the novel coronavirus. As even the hardest-hit areas of the continent, such as Italy and Spain, are beginning to emerge from their pandemic-prompted lockdowns, people are cautiously resuming business and looking to leave their days of cabin fever behind.
Prolonged lockdowns and the imminent arrival of Europeans’ traditional vacation season have prompted some countries to make piecemeal agreements with neighboring nations to allow unrestricted, bilateral travel between themselves and enable at least some measure of leisure travel this year.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have already formed their own so-called “Baltic bubble”, allowing free movement of their respective residents while maintaining closure of their exterior borders closed to everyone else. Australia and New Zealand are reportedly considering a similar arrangement between themselves for a free-travel zone that could even expand to include select South Pacific islands.
In the United Kingdom (U.K.), the notion of “air bridges” was recently raised in the House of Commons by Minister of Parliament Huw Merriman, chairman of the Transport Select Committee, who suggested that: “This would boost confidence in aviation travel and target safety where it is most needed.”
A mandatory two-week quarantine applicable to inbound travelers—a measure that’s been widely adopted around the world amid pandemic conditions—is not something that has thus far been implemented in the U.K., although one is now, finally set to take effect in June.
According to The Independent, British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps fears the further economic shutdown that this move might trigger and is consequently pushing for the adoption of travel corridors. “We should indeed consider further improvements—for example, air bridges enabling people from other countries that have achieved lower levels of coronavirus infection to come to the country,” he said.
On May 10, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the U.K.’s upcoming self-isolation measures would not apply to travelers arriving from France, thanks to a special arrangement made between himself and French President, Emmanuel Macron. The British government had also already indicated that arrivals from Ireland would be exempted from quarantine rules, said BBC News.
The possible formation of other air bridges is under discussion between the U.K., Greece and Portugal, where COVID-19 infection rates remain relatively low. Spain, France and Italy have also been put forth as possibilities during U.K. government briefings. An official spokesperson for the Prime Minister said that, for now, “It’s an option under consideration, but not agreed Government policy.”
It has even been suggested that an air bridge between the U.K. and U.S. might be introduced in the future. According to the Express, Visit Britain’s Director of Strategy and Communications for, Patricia Yates, told Parliament’s Digital Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee that, “Our American regional director is telling us sort of America is ready to go, American business is ready to go.”
However, with the U.S. reporting 1.7 million confirmed coronavirus cases and its death toll continuing to be the world’s highest, it’s unlikely that such an arrangement would be approved anytime soon.
Comments & Discussion
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