Westjet Canceling International Flights – Full COVID-19 Update

Many local restaurants are taking COVID-19 seriously enough that they are voluntarily closing their doors. Yesterday, Doctor David Williams recommended that eateries stop serving customers in-person and switch to offering only takeout or delivery. He says the measure is needed to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in the province. This includes quick service restaurants like Starbucks, McDonald’s and Tim Horton’s. Cineplex has also announced it is closing all of its 165 theatres nationwide.

Border Closures: 

Yesterday Ottawa announced border closure measures, barring most foreign nationals from entering the country — except Americans. Canadian citizens displaying symptoms of the novel coronavirus will also be restricted from boarding Canada bound flights. In his speech, the Prime Minister said it’s time for Canadian to come home.

Westjet canceling flights: 

Here’s another great reason for Canadians abroad to get home as quickly as possible: WestJet announced yesterday that it was suspending all commercial operations for international and trans-border flights for a 30-day period. That comes into effect Monday. It’s not clear if Air Canada will follow suit. In an effort to assist any Canadians returning home on short notice, the Trudeau government is making available COVID-19 emergency loans of up to $5,000 dollars.

Several other airlines, including Sunwing have announced various routes will be shutting down.

Airport screening: 

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says starting Wednesday extra measures are being put in place at airports to ensure people returning to Canada aren’t spreading the COVID-19 virus. He says as returning Canadians or other travellers are being processed, each will be asked if they have a cough, difficulty breathing or if they feel they have a fever. Blair says they will be required to fill out a form as well as acknowledgement that they have been asked to self isolate for the next 14 days. Most international flights will only be allowed to land at four airports — Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver.

Shopping:

Several grocery chains and Shopper’s Drug Mart have announced they will dedicate their first hour of shopping to seniors and those with disabilities. Seniors are believed to be at higher risk from COVID-19 and many have been cautious about going out to shop in the large crowds that have been gathering in some stores.

Social distancing:

Even though it’s St. Patrick’s Day …. Again today we are being told to socially distance ourselves from other people to stop the virus from spreading. Where possible, self isolate yourself at home. Large gatherings are restricted to 50 people or less. Wash your hands regularly, don’t shake hands and avoid touching your face.  Ireland will celebrate St Patrick’s Day on social media after all public events were cancelled, 7,000 pubs were shut and the government called on people not to organize or participate in private house parties due to coronavirus.

Community transmission:

Health Minister Patty Hajdu says there is now community transmission of COVID-19 in a number of areas in the country. She says the government is now calling on all Canadians to take extreme social measures to flatten the curve — including staying home, working from home and cancelling many events. Chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, says the rate of infection in Canada is increasing and the effort to slow the spread of the virus to give health systems a fighting chance to be able to treat it must be heightened immediately. Says Tam: ”We are in a fairly critical period.”

Support for workers:

Yesterday Premier Ford announced his government will look out for Ontario workers forced into quarantine or self-isolation by COVID-19. Ford said new legislation will protect the jobs of those who cannot work due to the coronavirus or because they have to care for others, such as children who aren’t in school. The legislation will also ban employers from asking for sick notes from employees during the pandemic. Labour Minister Monte McNaughton says it will be retroactive to January 25th and will stay in place until the virus is defeated.

Telehealth:

The province is adding more nurses to the Telehealth Ontario system following complaints of long wait times during the coronavirus outbreak. About 130 more nurses have been deployed for symptom assessment and referral, and Telehealth is also working to add more intake staff to handle initial contact. Chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams says he understands people are anxious to get advice as soon as possible. He adds people should stay at home while waiting for a Telehealth response, unless they have severe symptoms or a medical emergency.

Waterloo Region:

The COVID-19 restrictions in Waterloo Region continue today: All arenas, pools, community centres and libraries are closed. Day camps are cancelled. Municipally run child care centres are closed and screening continues for anyone entering area hospitals.  Health officials would like us to avoid visiting the hospitals unless it’s absolutely necessary. Reduced hours are still in effect at area malls. They are open from 11am-7pm. GRT buses are still running on time but ION trains are now running every 15 minutes today.

Waterloo Region now 8 confirmed case of the coronavirus. Health officials say another one of them is now in hospital. A woman, in her 50s, who recently travelled to France and the U.K is listed in stable condition. Ontario currently has the highest number of positive cases in Canada, with 177 reported as of yesterday.

The Region, The City, Police and Waterloo Public Health are all unanimously asking St. Paddy’s Day partiers to stay away from Ezra St. today. Dr Wang with Public Health says, “I am appealing to all of our citizens to please avoid gathering in large, crowded settings. You are encouraged to practice social distancing and in particular, I urge you to stay away from the Ezra St. party on St. Patrick’s Day.” That’s pretty specific. With many local bars and restaurants closed, you may want to play on having a green beer at home.

Laurier has given local, domestic students until 11:59pm tomorrow to get their stuff and get out of residence. In an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. In a statement, the school says, “We recognize how disruptive this will be as you move out of the space youve called home and were committed to supporting you through this process.” International students, out-of-province students and those self isolating will be allowed to stay a little longer to make their arrangements. The U of W has asked students to be out by Friday.

Photo Credit: Justin Trudeau via Twitter

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Scott Fox and Kat Callaghan