Canadian travellers should return home while they still can, Champagne recommends

Canadians travelling abroad should return to Canada while commercial transportation is still available, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois Philippe Champagne recommended Saturday. But Transport Canada has yet to release a list of airports that will accept international flights landing in the country.

Recommendation comes before Ottawa unveils list of airports accepting international flights

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne advised Canadians who remain overseas to return home before travel routes become further disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Canadians travelling abroad should return to Canada while commercial transportation is still available, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne recommended Saturday.

The minister delivered the warning on Twitter one day after Global Affairs Canada issued a similar statement advising overseas travellers to consider coming home earlier than planned amid escalating restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Airlines have cancelled flights. New restrictions may be imposed with little warning. Your travel plans may be severely disrupted and you may be forced to remain outside of Canada longer than expected," the ministry noted.

The federal government recommended Friday that Canadians should avoid all international travel and said it would limit where inbound flights would be permitted to land. 

But Champagne's warning comes as Transport Canada continues to hammer out a list of airports that will accept international flights.

Discussions are currently underway with airports and industry members, said department spokesperson Amy Butcher Saturday, with a final list expected to be released this week. 

Overseas int'l flights to be limited to certain airports: Garneau

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Transport Minister Marc Garneau says overseas international flights will be limited to certain airports, with more details expected to come soon.

What does that mean for travellers?

Butcher stressed that Canadians immediately concerned about finding flights home could continue to travel through Canadian airports until a final plan is revealed. 

Funnelling overseas flights into Canada to a handful of airports across the country is a way for officials to streamline the screening process and track where travellers are coming and going, she said. 

Transport Canada is currently working out the logistics of what that would look like for people trying to come home. 

Trudeau warns against leaving the country

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Duration 2:27
Speaking from self-isolation, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced new measures to combat COVID-19, warning against international travel.

The timing of Champagne's message isn't ideal for Canadians from many provinces who began their annual spring break this weekend. 

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough, who sits on the COVID-19 cabinet committee, told CBC Radio's The House Friday that she was conscious of criticisms that the federal government delayed telling Canadians to avoid non-essential international travel. 

"I totally can relate as a mother of two children now just starting their own spring break," she said. 

"But this was when we felt it best appropriate to make this call, and it was really based on the advice of both our public health experts who are leading in the world, and the [World Health Organization]."

Minister Qualtrough defends the federal government's response to the COVID-19 crisis, and says other new measures to help Canadians could be on the way.

Health agency: Self-isolation voluntary but recommended

Aside from flights, boats and cruise ships carrying more than 500 people will be barred from docking at Canadian ports until July.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said in its latest travel notice to self-isolate for a period of 14 days following any travel outside of Canada 

The federal health agency said self isolating after travel is not mandatory, but is recommended as a precaution. 

Canadians arriving in the country can also expect to see more screening measures at airports, land, rail and marine points of entry into the country.