Borders closed; symptomatic travellers banned in newest Federal measures to fight COVID-19

By Gordon Lambie, with files from the Canadian Press

Monday afternoon Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the borders of the country are closed to anyone except Canadian citizens and permanent residents, as well as American citizens. The country is also barring anyone, including Canadian citizens, who presents with symptoms of the coronavirus from boarding flights to the country. “These measures will help save lives,” the Prime Minister said, emphasizing the fact that the situation with regard to the virus is changing rapidly and requires frequent review. Underlining that the decision-making process is based on consultation with experts, Trudeau said that the new measures are meant to keep Canadians safe while also working to keep them as connected and supported as possible. “These are exceptional circumstances calling for exceptional measures,” he said. The Prime Minister repeated, with greater urgency, the strong recommendation that Canadians abroad return to the country as quickly as possible. “Let me be clear,” he said. “If you are abroad, it is time for you to come home.”
While he did not go into detail about how it would work, Trudeau did state that a fund was being created to help Canadians return and/or deal with their needs should they become trapped in another country. He also specified that all international flights except those coming from the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, and St. Pierre et Miquelon, will be diverted to one of Montreal (Trudeau), Toronto (Pearson), Vancouver or Calgary’s airports.
The prime minister also encouraged all Canadians to limit their movements. “All Canadians, as much as possible, should stay home,” He said, while stressing the point that social distancing should not equal social isolation. “Pick up the phone, write an email, facetime,” he continued, arguing that Canada’s strength lies in its peoples’ ability to pull together and look after each other.

Local changes
On the local front, a number of municipalities continued to make adjustments to the way they interact with the public.
After previously saying that they would open their council chamber to a reduced number of people for Monday night’s regular council meeting, the City of Sherbrooke announced that no members of the public would be allowed in, and people were encouraged to watch the meeting live on the city’s website instead. Several municipalities, including Magog and Bromont, announced that they would be closing their municipal offices to the public altogether.
Following up on the news last week that she would be cancelling the public vote for her participatory budget project out of respect for the directive to avoid public gatherings, Sherbrooke MNA Christine Labrie announced that all 22 of the projects submitted for consideration will receive 51.5 per cent of the funding they requested as a blanket response.
Several local shopping centres, including Le Centre Sherbrooke and the Carrefour de l’Estrie, announced reduced hours. Effective March 17, both of those malls will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday to Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. The only difference in the new schedules of the two malls comes on Sundays, when the Carrefour is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. but Le Centre Sherbrooke is open from noon to 4 p.m. Although school is out for the vast majority of Eastern Townships children, people in Granby, Cowansville, and Waterloo might still see kids coming and going from the local English elementary schools. As a part of measures to help support and maintain the essential services, including the healthcare and emergency services, Parkview, Heroes’ Memorial and Waterloo elementary schools have all been chosen as emergency daycare service sites by the provincial families ministry. In a letter sent out by the Eastern Townships School Board’s Interim Director General, Michel Soucy, parents were reminded that all ETSB schools and centres are closed and not accessible from Monday March 16 to Friday March 27 inclusively and they cannot go to schools to pick up belongings that may have been left there during this period. Published in the Tuesday, March 17 edition of The Record.

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