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Westjet suspending international and transborder flights for 30 days

THE CANADIAN PRESS AND NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Mar 17th, 2020

OTTAWA – WestJet says it is suspending all commercial international and transborder flights for a 30-day period to help control the spread of COVID-19, effective March 23.

The Calgary-based airline says it will be operating rescue and repatriation flights in partnership with the Canadian government.

The company’s CEO made the announcement on the airline’s website late Monday night.

In addition to stopping the international flights, they will be reducing their domestic schedule by approximately 50 per cent, Sims said.

Travel and COVID-19: Cancelation policies and refunds!

Kyle Mack | posted Monday, Mar 16th, 2020

Change of travel plans due to COVID-19? Winston Sih stopped by Breakfast Television to share some tips on how to make changes to your itinerary and get the most back from your deposit.

Airlines waiving select fees or offering flight credit

  • Air Canada – Select changes can be made online or phone

AirCanada.com or 1-888-247-2262

One-time change can be made without a charge up to 24 hours before

Can cancel for flight credit against future travel (fare difference applies)

  • WestJet – Select changes can be made online or phone

WestJet.com or 1-888-WESTJET

One-time fee waiver online if booked after March 10

If booked between March 3-10, can be changed if more than 14 days out

Other fares must be changed or cancelled over the phone

Airlines waiving select fees or offering flight credit

  • Porter Airlines – Select changes can be made online or phone (except basic)

FlyPorter.com or 1-888-619-8622

Change or cancel your flight once without a fee

Change or cancel your flight at least 24 hours before departure

For travel within the next 12 months

  • Air Transat – Changes cannot be made online – Must be done via phone or online form

AirTransat.com or 1-877-872-6728

Flight or package for travel until April 30 can change dates, hotel and/or destination once at no charge

Can cancel for travel credit with Transat

Travel must be for travel by end of 2020

Airlines waiving select fees or offering flight credit

  • Sunwing – Changes cannot be made online – Must be done via phone or online form

Sunwing.ca or 1-877-SUNWING

Before March 4 – Flexible change policy for customers with $100 admin fee per person

March 4-13 – One-time change can be made without $100 admin fee per person

March 14-31 – Cancellation can be made with $100 admin fee per person

  • Swoop – Select changes can be made online or phone

FlySwoop.com or 1-587-441-1001

Future travel to U.S., Mexico, Jamaica up to March 31 can receive flight credit – will be contacted

Credits are only offered for transborder and international flights

Cruise lines offering credit

  • Most companies offering cruise credit instead of refunds for travel through March 31
  • Royal Caribbean – You will be contacted – 48 hours’ notice to get credit
  • Carnival Cruise Lines – Online form is available – 72 hours in advance for cruises until April
  • Princess Cruises – Cancelled through May 10 – credit or refund offered (online)

May 10-July 31, you can now cancel your vacation up to 48 hours before sailing

  • Disney Cruise Line – You will be contacted – Cancelled through end of month – credit or refund offered

Hotels 

  • Cancellation fees waived in regions impacted by COVID-19
  • Marriott.com – Changes or cancellation without a charge up to 24 hours prior to arrival

Existing reservation changes must be made by April 30

  • Hilton.com – Can be changed or cancelled at no charge online up to 24 hours before

Policy in place for China, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Italy (stays until March 31, April 30 for Italy)

  • Hyatt.com – Can be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before
  • IHG.com – Cancellation fees waived for existing and new bookings globally for stays between March 9 and April 30

Airbnb – Airbnb.ca 

  • Cancel free of charge for China (through April 1), Italy (through April 3), South Korea (through March 23)
  • Outside of the zones, you may cancel for free (via online claim) if:
    • Needed to comply with restrictions implemented by governments
    • To perform medical or disease control duties
    • Due to travel cancellations as a result of COVID-19
    • If you are diagnosed with or suspected of having COVID-19 by health authorities

Insurance and booking groups

  • Manulife and TuGo won’t reimburse new customers who cancel because of coronavirus
  • Expedia.ca – Must call them except for low-cost airlines where you must contact airline directly

For flights or package, or hotel and car reservations, if fee waiver isn’t available, call Expedia

 

 

Trudeau to address Canadians amid growing concern over COVID-19 pandemic

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Mar 16th, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is due to address the nation again Monday after a weekend that saw health officials strengthen their tone on COVID-19 as provinces took more drastic measures to stem the virus’s spread.

News of Trudeau’s press conference, which is scheduled for 1 p.m., came hours after cabinet ministers left a meeting on Sunday promising big action. Some of those same ministers are set to speak to reporters after Trudeau’s address.

“I think the most important thing that Canadians want to know right now is how we can keep them safe, and that has been our main priority as a government, and that’s why starting tomorrow you will be hearing, also, some important news,” Tourism Minister Melanie Joly told reporters Sunday.

“Starting tomorrow, you will be hearing the decisions that we just took.”

Joly didn’t explain why they were waiting to make the announcement.

The ministerial meeting came the same day that the country’s top public health official, Dr. Theresa Tam, said quick action was needed to prevent the outbreak’s most damaging effects.

“Our window to flatten the curve of the epidemic is narrow,” Dr. Theresa Tam said at a news conference. “We all need to act now. COVID-19 is a serious public health threat.”

If people don’t stay home in an effort to “social distance,” the virus will spread so quickly that too many people will need urgent medical care at once, she said.

Over the weekend, the number of confirmed cases in Canada climbed from 197 to 341.

Tam repeated previous government messages about avoiding large public gatherings, practising social distancing and avoiding travel outside of Canada. She also said Canadians returning from trips abroad should immediately go into self-isolation for 14 days rather than simply self-monitoring.

But in Quebec, the premier took a more hard-line approach.

“We have to limit outings,” Francois Legault said at a briefing. “We should go out only to work, buy bread, go to the pharmacy, get health care, take a walk or go help people age 70 and up.”

Meanwhile, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said there was evidence of community transmission in the province.

“Until now, all cases in Alberta had been travel-related or close contact with a returning traveller,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said. “These two cases mean that there are other cases in the community that we haven not identified, increasing the likelihood that Albertans may be exposed within their communities.”

She said the development changes the landscape and led the province to cancel classes for students in kindergarten through Grade 12 and shutter licensed daycares.

Even the judicial system was making adjustments, with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice announcing it would suspend operations starting on Tuesday, postponing all trials except the most urgent. It said judges would decide today whether to proceed with jury trials.

The growing number of cases has prompted the cancellation of large-scale events, multimillion-dollar economic stimulus packages from governments, and the suspension of the Parliament until April 20.

Our window to flatten the COVID 19 curve is narrow, says Dr. Theresa Tam

MICHELLE MCQUIGGE AND THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Mar 16th, 2020

Canada’s top public health officer raised the risk level associated with the growing COVID-19 pandemic on Sunday even as retailers and top politicians reassured Canadians that any restrictive measures would not result in shortages of food or other basics.

Both the Retail Council of Canada and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said supplies of groceries and other basics would continue to flow even if the outbreak of the novel coronavirus triggered widespread store or border closures.

That possibility loomed larger after the country’s chief public health officer stopped describing the situation as low-risk.

“Our window to flatten the curve of the epidemic is narrow,” Dr. Theresa Tam said at a news conference. “We all need to act now. COVID-19 is a serious public health threat.”

Tam’s new assessment did not immediately trigger fresh advice to prevent the spread of the pandemic. Tam repeated previous government messages about avoiding large public gatherings, practising social distancing and avoiding travel outside of Canada.

She did clarify, however, that Canadians returning from trips abroad should immediately go into self-isolation for 14 days rather than simply self-monitoring.

Fears associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have triggered a rush on drug and grocery stores across the country as people flocked to buy basics en masse.

While the Retail Council of Canada said the current high demand for food, toilet paper and other staples is understandable as the number of positive cases continues to climb, it urged Canadians not to succumb to panic.

Marc Fortin, president of the council’s Quebec chapter, said supply chains continue to function as normal and goods will continue to flow even if major trading partners close their borders in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.

“Groceries and pharmacies are considered essential services, so they will remain open,” he said. “We have plenty of food, plenty of goods.”

Fortin said about 70 per cent of commonly purchased items are produced domestically, ensuring their continued availability in Canadian stores. He acknowledged the situation is more precarious for fresh produce and other items being imported into the country at this time of year but said retailers have suppliers in a variety of countries and have contingency plans in place.

Trudeau also urged retail restraint on Sunday during a television interview with CTV’s Question Period conducted outside his home, where he is currently in self-isolation along with his family.

He said Canada’s supply chains to date have not been affected by the tightening border restrictions around the world, merchandise is still coming across the border, and there’s no need to start hoarding supplies.

“Yes, stock up a little bit so you don’t have to go to the store every two or three days like we usually do, but make sure that you’re not taking more than you need,” he said. “Your neighbours, or vulnerable people, will need to access supplies as well.”

Trudeau said a measured approach will be important in all aspects of life as Canadians navigate the outbreak, which has so far infected more than 300 people in the country and caused one death.

The number of cases continued to climb on Sunday, with Ontario reporting 39 new cases, bringing the total to 142. Health authorities in Quebec reported 11 new cases, prompting Premier Francois Legault to call for the closure of public places in the province such as bars, gyms, libraries and movie theatres.

Legault did not include stores or restaurants in his message but urged eateries to operate at 50 per cent capacity in order to promote social distancing.

The Manitoba government reported three more cases in that province, bringing the total to seven.

And authorities in Nova Scotia said COVID-19 had officially reached that province after three people tested positive for the virus. Premier Stephen McNeil responded by announcing schools and day-care centres would be closed for two weeks following March break, which is set to begin Monday.

Most people diagnosed with COVID-19 experience mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, and the vast majority of those who contract the virus recover.

However, for some, including Canadians aged 65 and over, those with compromised immune systems and those with pre-existing conditions, the illness can be much more severe. Among the Canadians diagnosed with the illness so far, fewer than 15 per cent have required hospitalization.

The growing number of cases has prompted widespread closures of schools and universities, mass cancellation of large-scale events, multimillion-dollar economic stimulus packages from governments, and the suspension of the Parliament until April 20

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 15, 2020.

With files from Stephanie Levitz in Ottawa, Morgan Lowrie in Montreal, Keith Doucette in Halifax

Pearson CBSA employee tests positive for COVID-19

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Mar 16th, 2020

A Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) employee who works at Toronto-Pearson International Airport has tested positive for COVID-19.

“We can confirm that an employee at the Toronto Pearson International Airport has tested positive for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus,” said Ashley Lemire manager, media relations, on Sunday. “We can assure you that the employee is in isolation at home and following direction from local health officials.”

Lemire said they don’t know how the worker got infected but said they are contacting everyone who may have had contact with the person.

She added that they are sanitizing the area where the person worked.

“Employees who may have been in contact with the infected individual have been asked to self-monitor for symptoms and to contact public health for direction,” she said. “These employees may also be instructed by public health to self-isolate and remain at home for the recommended period.”

Ontario not currently considering lockdown

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Mar 16th, 2020

As public events, classes at schools and colleges and various sporting events continue to be cancelled across the province, rumours of an imminent ‘lockdown’ circulated online over the weekend.

Various parts of Europe and China have imposed restrictions on travel and movement in the past month in a bid to control the spread of the coronavirus.

However, the Province of Ontario said on Sunday it is not currently considering a lockdown, even as enhanced measures to contain COVID-19 are being put in place on an ongoing basis.

In a statement, the Office of the Premier urged Ontarians to be careful where they get information from.

“We ask that Ontarians exercise a high degree of caution during this time and ensure they’re relying on information from credible sources,” said Ivana Yelich, a spokeswoman for the premier’s office.

MPs to discuss suspending Parliament in COVID-19 fight

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Mar 13th, 2020

Parliamentarians are considering whether to take the unprecedented move of suspending Parliament because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Members of the House of Commons administration committee could not agree Thursday on what measures to take to address the outbreak even as the Ontario government shuttered schools, sports leagues suspended seasons, and public gatherings were restricted or cancelled all across the country.

The Commons is sitting on Friday before a planned one-week break, but discussions are underway about whether that break should be extended.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in two weeks of self-isolation after his wife Sophie tested positive for COVID-19, which would keep him out of the House for several days after its scheduled return.

Two other cabinet ministers remain isolated with flu and cold-like symptoms and are also awaiting test results for the virus.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau, however, insisted the federal budget will be tabled on March 30 as planned.

Senators were asked to remain in Ottawa Thursday night after having broken for a week earlier in the day. The Senate announced late Thursday that it would sit today, creating an opportunity to deal with measures that would keep the federal government funded and functioning if Parliament doesn’t sit for an extended period.

Preventing the spread of the of the novel coronavirus has become Job 1 for public-health experts, who are trying to prevent the kind of tragic outcomes being seen in Italy and other parts of Europe.

Parliament did step up efforts to disinfect its buildings Thursday, including additional cleanings of things like elevator buttons and handrails.

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