Breaking: Canada locks down borders — but not for freight — as crisis worsens

The Canadian government leaves crucial openings for the movement of goods and U.S. citizens as it introduces an extraordinary travel ban because of coronavirus.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Monday “aggressive” steps to lock down the country’s borders to curb the spread of coronavirus but left crucial openings that will allow freight to move from the United States.

“We will continue to ensure that Canada receives important goods,” Trudeau said during a news conference outside his home in Ottawa. Trudeau is in self-imposed isolation with his wife, Sophie Grégoire, who is recovering from COVID-19.

The most significant step is banning the entry of most people who are not citizens or permanent residents of Canada. Exemptions include U.S. citizens as well as travel for business and trade purposes — which means American truck drivers can continue to bring freight into Canada.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau also made clear that Canadian truck drivers who make regular cross-border deliveries are not expected to restrict their travel or self-isolate if they show no coronavirus symptoms. Canadians returning from another country currently are being told to self-isolate for 14 days upon return.

Canadian Trucking Alliance President Steve Laskowski welcomed the provisions to ensure that trucks will continue to move between Canada and the United States.

“We applaud Minister Garneau and the government for recognizing that even in these extraordinary times, the border with the U.S. and Canada needs to stay open for commerce,” Laskowski told FreightWaves.

Laskowski stressed that truck drivers showing symptoms for the coronavirus or having tested positive for COVID-19 need to be isolated. But he said a 14-day isolation period for drivers merely for crossing the border “would have been a disaster.”

Officials also announced the arrival of international flights will be limited to the country’s four largest airports: Toronto Pearson, Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary. The four airports handle the highest number of passengers and volumes of freight in Canada.

Canada had 324 confirmed cases of coronavirus and four deaths as of Monday.

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