Now in the middle of September, many students have gone back to school, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Coincidentally, British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Alberta are all reporting an uptick in active cases. The increase in active cases is coming at a time when the provinces are looking to expand testing because many Canadians are being forced to wait hours in line in order be tested or worse yet, cannot receive a test at all because of supply limits.
For example, in Ottawa people were being turned away from testing this week because the testing sites ran out of supplies, and two testing sites at Western University in London had to turn students away because of the overwhelming demand for tests. Ottawa officials are asking adults who are not showing symptoms and do not have a known exposure to the virus to avoid coming in for tests because of the current lack of tests available. The likely drive for the surge in demand for testing is children returning to school.
Positively, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam indicated that the federal government will offer federal lab capacity in order to remedy the increase in demand. In a press conference, Dr. Tam further addressed the recent COVID-19 spikes:
“What you’re seeing now is of course concerning – and just to remind people that it is actually what happened in the last couple of weeks that resulted in the increase in cases that we’re seeing, so we are always looking backwards as opposed to projecting forward. The key message is that the time to act is now across the board in terms of reducing some of the contacts you’ve had over the summer months.”
It is not just Canada that is experiencing an uptick in cases. Canadian mayors in border cities have remained steadfast in their stance that the border should remain closed. Fort Erie Mayor Wayne Redekop gave his take on the situation on Wednesday:
“The situation in the United States is getting worse, there seems to be no regard for the health and safety of others. So at this stage, it doesn’t make sense to be lifting the border restrictions.”
Visitors from the United States are essential to the economy of the border cities so statements like these from the mayors of border cities are indicative of the priority being placed on health and safety over economics. Despite most border city mayors advocating for the border to remain closed, some are advocating for increased exemptions, particularly for families to cross the border for compassionate reasons. As it stands currently, there are narrow exemptions for family members that only apply to immediate family members. An expansion of this exemption to include compassionate reasons would help many people see family members they have gone months without seeing.
Without this sort of exemption, people are potentially going to be waiting much longer to cross the border as the current border restrictions are expected to be extended until at least November. If extended, this would be the sixth time the border restrictions are prolonged. It is important to remember that if you desperately need to travel to the United States that Canadians can still travel to the United States by air, so the border is not closed completely. Canada is currently restricting U.S. visitors by air, but the U.S. is allowing Canadians in so long as they have not visited Brazil, China, Iran, Ireland, the U.K. or countries in the Schengen Area for 14 days prior to their travel.
Make sure you stay updated on regional restrictions and regulations before you make travel arrangements. If you are trying to travel make sure you qualify as essential or prepare an exemption request. Depending on where you are going, you may also need a 14 day quarantine plan. If you have questions about where you can travel, please do not hesitate to contact us.
The immigration lawyers at Garson Immigration Law are continuing to monitor the immigration fallout in relation to COVID-19 on both sides of the border and will provide updates as the situation develops. If you have any questions about your potential classification as essential or about how you should comply with the changing regulations, do not hesitate to reach out to us online or by calling us at 416-321-2860.