More than a million people headed home to Canada last week as other countries gradually closed their borders over concerns about the spreading coronavirus.
According to figures released Monday by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), 959,600 Canadian citizens and 43,890 permanent residents returned to the country between March 14 and 20.
CBSA said 529,407 Canadians and 23,615 permanent residents flew in, while 428,724 Canadians and 20,243 permanent residents returned by land.
Another 1,469 Canadians and 32 permanent residents arrived by sea.
The agency could not immediately say how many Canadians and permanent residents typically cross the border at this time of the year.
The federal government has scrambled in recent days to help Canadians stranded overseas in countries affected by lockdowns and air-space restrictions due to COVID-19.
“People should be returning by commercial means while they’re still available,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday.
“If you are a Canadian abroad, register with the government now so we can send you updates and contact you. You need to do this if you haven’t done it already.”
Mr. Trudeau said Ottawa has negotiated authorization for a number of flights to ferry back Canadian nationals this week. These include:
- Three Air Canada flights to bring Canadians back from Peru;
- Two Air Canada flights to Morocco;
- Two Air Transat flights to Honduras;
- One Air Canada flight to Spain;
- And one Air Transat flight each to Ecuador, El Salvador and Guatemala.
“This is probably the largest repatriation effort in Canada’s history in peacetime,” Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne told the CBC’s The Current Monday morning.
He said his department has received close to 10,000 calls and 14,000 e-mails from stranded Canadians in the last 48 hours.
But he reiterated Mr. Trudeau’s previous warning that Canada won’t be able to repatriate every citizen who is stuck abroad. “We’ll support them locally … we’ll do our utmost to support them wherever they might be."
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