Ottawa (CNN) — Canadian officials said Friday they are working with the Biden administration to close what they describe as a travel "loophole" and to get more symmetry with Covid-19 safety protocols between the two countries.
"A loophole, frankly, does exist because the Americans previously had not placed any restriction on international flights coming into the US," said Bill Blair, Canada's public safety minister, during a news conference Friday.
"That concerns us because that restriction is at our land border but not at air travel," he added.
While the Canada-US border remains closed and all nonessential travel is prohibited until at least February 21, in the 10 months since the border restrictions were put in place, hundreds of thousands of travelers have made discretionary trips between both countries as air travel has not so far been subject to the same restrictions.
With the United States not imposing any air travel restrictions from Canada, the loophole has allowed everything from Canadian snowbirds going to the warm climes of Florida and Arizona for winter to family members on both sides of the border setting up nonessential visits.
Trudeau to Canadians: Avoid travel
On Friday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau underscored his plea to Canadians to stay home and avoid travel of any kind, including domestic and international travel.
Trudeau has acknowledged that constitutionally he cannot prevent Canadians from traveling, but he did warn that it might soon become much more difficult to return to Canada.
"We could be bringing in new measures that significantly impede your ability to return to Canada, at any given moment, without warning," Trudeau said during a news conference Friday, adding, "The bottom line is this: This is not the time to travel either internationally or across the country."
International air travelers who currently enter Canada must show proof of a negative test result for Covid-19 taken within 72 hours of departure and are also subject to a 14-day mandatory quarantine with violators facing stiff financial penalties. There are exceptions for essential workers.
Looking for more measures
Canadian officials say they are looking for more measures that would discourage as much travel as possible, and they are hoping a new agreement with the United State will help.
"We are looking at a number of measures that can include further restrictions on international travel, additional tracing measures, additional quarantine measures and enforcement measures in order to de-incentivize and discourage people from making unnecessary trips," Blair said Friday.
Officials also indicated that weeks of lockdowns throughout most of Canada are slowly starting to work with new daily cases of Covid-19 falling.
"This gives us hope that community based control measures are starting to take effect," said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer. "But it is still too soon to be sure that these measures are strong enough and broad enough to set us on a steady downward trend."