Manitoba establishing checkpoints at provincial borders to warn travellers about COVID-19 risks

The Manitoba government is deploying provincial employees to airports and five provincial border checkpoints to inform travellers about the risk of COVID-19.

Information checkpoints on Trans-Canada Highway at Ontario border, 4 highways connecting to Sask.

A sign at the U.S.-Canada border crossing at Emerson, Man., on March 24, 2020, warns returning travellers to stay home for two weeks after their return. Information checkpoints will now be set up at provincial boundaries on five Manitoba highways. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)

The Manitoba government says it has no plans to close interprovincial borders to stop the coronavirus, but they're deploying staff anyway to speak with every person who enters the province at five highway crossings.

On Friday, the province announced it is establishing checkpoints at the five busiest crossings and providing signage at airports, to inform travellers of the risk of COVID-19.

The checkpoints — four entering from Saskatchewan and one from Ontario — are operational as of Friday afternoon, Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler said.

"If you're on two wheels or 18 … you're going to get one of these" information pamphlets, he said.

"Even four-legged, you come through on a horse, we're going to hand you one of these and talk to you."

The campaign will include signage at the Winnipeg and Brandon airports, as well as checkpoints at the following locations:

  • Ontario border:   
    • Trans-Canada Highway east (West Hawk Lake/Falcon Lake).
  • Saskatchewan border:   
    • Trans-Canada Highway west (west of Kirkella/Elkhorn/Virden).
    • Highway 16 (west of Russell).
    • Highway 5W (west of Roblin).
    • Highway 2 (west of Sinclair/Reston/Souris).

Schuler explained the checkpoints will alert travellers to the need to self-isolate and other pressing health information concerning the coronavirus.

He said drivers should only expect a short delay.

"What we're doing is we're handing individuals a sheet of paper and telling them that they must comply with it," he said. "We're not anticipating a debating club."

Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler says Manitobans are getting the message around COVID-19 precautions and at this time there's no need to close the interprovincial border to outside traffic. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Airport staff in Winnipeg and Brandon will be alerting travellers arriving from their domestic travels of the same information, Schuler said. Officials with the Canada Border Services Agency are already supposed to discuss precautions with international arrivals.

No travellers will be denied entry into Manitoba, and the province has no intention at this point of closing its borders, or checking temperatures or doing other tests on travellers at provincial border crossings, Schuler said.

The province feels there is currently no need to close the borders, he said.

"We believe that if Manitobans continue to comply like they are that this is the best way to go about it. This gets the information out," Schuler said. "We are finding that there is amazing uptake on the request."

No checkstop planned: Schuler

In a discussion explaining Manitoba's approach, Schuler said he told a Saskatchewan minister that Manitoba was planning a checkpoint, not a checkstop.

At each of the five border crossings, three government staff are on site. Schuler said they will not log the personal information of any arriving traveller.

He added every driver entering Manitoba will be approached, no matter how frequently they cross the border.

Drivers leaving Manitoba may expect minor delays to ensure the safety of people at the checkstop, Schuler said. The province has enlisted 60-80 staff in the infrastructure and sustainable development departments to work there.

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Ian Froese

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Ian Froese covers provincial politics and its impact for CBC Manitoba. He previously reported on a bit of everything for newspapers. You can reach him at