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Prime Minister’s remarks updating Canadians on the COVID-19 situation, vaccines, and travel restrictions

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Hello everyone. Happy New Year.

As we begin this new year, I know a lot of people are wondering what to expect in 2021.

Although the pandemic is far from over, I want to start today by telling you that we have reasons to be optimistic. 

Two safe and effective vaccines have been approved in Canada and we have started receiving doses of those vaccines over the past few weeks.

Our government already delivered nearly half a million doses to the provinces and territories.

And those efforts are continuing.

We’re on track to have well over a million vaccine doses from Pfizer and Moderna by the end of January.

And by September, we’ll have enough doses to vaccinate every Canadian who wants a shot.

The vaccines will allow us to protect people and save lives.

That’s why it’s essential that the provinces and territories conduct their immunization campaigns as quickly as possible.

The federal government is covering the cost of the vaccines and the supplies needed to administer them.

And we are coordinating the logistics of deploying vaccines all across the country through the National Operations Centre, which is supported by the Canadian Armed Forces.

This pandemic will end. We will get through this.

Better days are on the horizon, but to get there, we need to keep holding on.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: now is not the time to vacation abroad.

We must stay the course.

Let me also be very clear about the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit.

This program was created to give people sick leave if they needed it and otherwise wouldn’t have one from their employer.

It exists, for example, for the grocery store employee who needs to isolate because he’s been in contact with a colleague who has tested positive, or if he himself has symptoms.

The employee therefore does not have to choose between losing his income and isolating to protect others.

The goal has never been to send a cheque to those who decide to go on a trip, against public health advice.

My message to those who have gone south is clear.

You will not be entitled to this benefit.

It’s not there to pay for someone’s post-vacation quarantine.

To those who were angry after reading the news this weekend, I share your indignation.

We are correcting the situation quickly.

I know you have made a lot of sacrifices over the past few months and the bottom line is that anyone who travelled for non-essential reasons will not be able to access the sickness benefit.

We’ll have more details soon.

We have been telling Canadians since March to avoid all non-essential travel.

We will continue hammering this message on all platforms. And there is a mandatory quarantine for anyone returning to the county, no exceptions, with very severe legal consequences if it is not respected.

Canada has long had some of the strongest travel measures in the world.

Since March, these rules have helped save lives.

It’s important, to protect our loved ones and health care workers, and to ensure that our hospitals are not overwhelmed.

As new strains of COVID-19 emerge, as cases skyrocket in countless countries, this is the time to double down on keeping you and your family safe.  

Starting Thursday, to be eligible to return to Canada, travellers must have a negative COVID-19 test before boarding their flight.

This is in addition to the long-standing mandatory two-week quarantine once people arrive.

Officials are reviewing travellers’ isolation plans.

And if the plan is not up to par, the travellers will have to quarantine in a federal facility.

Earlier today, I also spoke with President Ramaphosa of South Africa, including about our work together on fighting COVID-19 and the global response to this pandemic.

Canada and South Africa have long worked as partners to keep our citizens safe, and build a healthier, brighter future for everyone.

As we face this pandemic, we will continue to stand together.

This includes on fighting the virus and on ensuring that no one gets left behind as we rebuild.

On public health in particular, Canada is taking the steps needed to protect Canadians and stop the spread of COVID-19.

We’ve put in place additional screening and enhanced measures to respond to new challenges wherever they occur around the world.

We’ve been very clear.

No one should be vacationing abroad right now.

But if you still decide to travel at your own risk, you will need to show a negative COVID-19 test before you return, and you must self-isolate for two weeks when you get back.

You need to take this seriously.

Not following the rules could mean real consequences, including fines and prison time.

So many people gave up so much more than just a vacation over the holidays.

There’s a reason so many Canadians made those tough but responsible decisions.

There’s a reason so many Canadians did their part.

It was for the people around them.  

For the senior that is better protected.

For the frontline worker who is safer on the job.

For the small business owner who could look with more confidence to reopening.

We can’t let the sacrifices we’ve made over the holidays—and over the last 10 months—go to waste.

This afternoon, I’ll be speaking with local business owners in B.C. and P.E.I. who are working hard to keep employees on the payroll.

Later, I’ll also have a chance to drop in on a virtual classroom with students in Edmonton.

As a former teacher, these classroom meetings are among my favourites.

Our kids are doing an incredible job of not just adapting, but also looking out for each other. So to all the kids doing virtual school this year, and with a lot of you starting up this week—you’re doing great. Keep it up.

And remember, even as you’re trying to figure out how to get virtual school going, this is tough for your parents, too.

So maybe give them an extra hug at the end of the day, and you know maybe for once do the dishes without being prompted or asked to it.

We’re all in this together and the more we can help each other out, the better we’re going to make it through this.

Right across the country, people of every age are doing their part.

Now is not the time to give up.  

With rising cases, many provinces that have already made tough decisions will have to continue doing so, whether with local restrictions or province-wide shutdowns.

It’s not easy, but it is necessary.

Our government will be there as a partner for all orders of government, as they make the right choices to keep people safe.

Working together is what will get us through this crisis.

Because we’re not out of the woods yet.

On New Year’s Eve, there were over 8,400 new COVID-19 cases reported in Canada.

The day before, there had been almost 7,500 cases.

These aren’t just numbers.

Hundreds of families are grieving someone they lost over the holidays.

Thousands more are worried about a loved one in hospital.

Countless paramedics, nurses, and doctors are struggling to keep up with new patient after new patient.

That’s what’s at stake here.

That’s why your choices matter.

By wearing a mask, by keeping your distance, and by avoiding gatherings, you are keeping yourself and others safe.

And by using the COVID Alert app, you are helping to stop the virus from spreading.

Take, for example, last Thursday, when hundreds of people entered their unique code in the application after receiving a positive test result.

That simple act will prevent hundreds of other people from contracting the virus.

Fighting COVID-19 is a team effort and, together, we will succeed in curbing this pandemic.

Over the past few weeks alone, our government has provided additional support to communities that needed it.

I am referring to the presence of the Red Cross in long-term care facilities in Quebec and the Canadian Rangers in the First Nations community of Ekuanitshit. 

And we are ready to do more if needed.

Across the country, and especially in Ontario, long-term care homes are facing extremely concerning outbreaks of COVID-19.

This is unacceptable.

Our elders, our parents and grandparents, built this country.

They raised us.

And they deserve the very best possible care.

We’ve already lost too many elders in long-term care.

The tragedies of the spring must not be repeated.

As we have been since March, our government is here to support provinces in getting the situation under control in their jurisdictions.

Already, we have been in touch with the Government of Ontario, and stand ready to provide additional, targeted help.

Today, just like when we first deployed the Armed Forces and the Red Cross during the first wave, our top priority is keeping people safe.   

I’ll be bringing up long-term care homes with all premiers on Thursday at our First Ministers’ Meeting, as well as shared work on vaccine distribution and measures on borders and travel.

We’re all in this fight together.

And our government will always be here to do our part.

An Armed Forces deployment, boosted testing, isolation measures—this can be the difference between local outbreaks becoming a crisis or becoming under control.

I think of when the Shamattawa First Nation in Manitoba requested emergency support to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak in their community over the past weeks.

The federal government deployed the Canadian Armed Forces, who worked side by side with the community on testing, contact tracing, and isolation capacity.

And today, cases are a fraction of where they were, and the community continues to work hard to stop the spread of the virus.

To all those working on the ground, whether with the Canadian Armed Forces or the Red Cross, in a hospital or with a community organization: thank you.

You are doing an incredible job. We will continue to be here for you.

In the weeks and months to come, our government will continue to provide assistance to those who need it.

I promise that 2021 will be better than 2020, but it will still not be easy.

But together, we will get through this.

Happy New Year, everyone. To all of us.