B.C. Premier John Horgan has called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to increase federal restrictions on airports and border crossings, to help stem the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Horgan was on conference call with Trudeau and other premiers Friday, replacing a first ministers’ meeting in Ottawa that was moved to phone lines after Trudeau declared he is in self-isolation after his wife tested positive for COVID-19. B.C. has identified more than 50 cases, but in recent days the concern has been infection risk from the U.S., rather than the original hotspots of China and Iran.
— Tom Fletcher (@tomfletcherbc) March 13, 2020
Airports, land border crossings and the Seattle-Victoria ferry service are “where we want the federal government to up their game,” Horgan told reporters.
Horgan said B.C. Ferries has asked for “lenience” on Transport Canada regulations requiring passengers to leave vehicles parked on lower decks. That has not been granted, but Trudeau assured him he would take that up with Transport Canada.
On Friday, Via Rail, which offers train routes across the country, announced it would be cancelling overnight trains until further notice.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Friday that returning travellers do not need to request a coronavirus test if they don’t have symptoms. If they self-isolate for 14 days and do not experience cough, fever or shortness of breath, they should consider themselves well.
“This test is not necessarily valid for people who are not sick,” Henry said.
Health Minister Adrian Dix also emphasized the rules for testing, as reports came in of people converging on walk-in clinics seeking COVID-19 tests.
“You can’t get tested unless you’re referred, and you don’t need testing unless you have symptoms,” Dix said.
Henry said this week’s travel advisory to stay in Canada if possible does not apply to people who need to cross the border for their jobs, such as truckers and flight crews, who should have their own systems for hygiene and checking themselves for symptoms.
Horgan used the national meeting to ask for enhanced Employment Insurance sickness benefits to cover a larger portion of a person’s income while they are self-isolating or are in quarantine for COVID-19 exposure.
Horgan also wants EI benefits temporarily extended to workers who currently don’t meet EI qualifications, such as people who are self-employed. He said B.C. is working on its own small business assistance effort for people who have to stop work or lose work due to cancellation of sports and other events.
“We want to make sure that we get a stimulus to protect those small businesses, to protect those employees,” Horgan said. “People think about the Canucks season being suspended, and the consequences to those people who work in concessions, who derive their income from events, from hospitality, from tourism.”