Coronavirus: Canada Closes Border to Foreigners, Americans Exempted

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau  February 14, 2020- Getty-H 2020

On Wednesday, the countries agreed to temporarily close their border to "non-essential traffic" to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus.

Canada on Monday moved to ban entry to the country to non-residents, except for American citizens, in a bid to combat the COVID-19 outbreak.

The announcement, made in Ottawa by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, stopped short of calls to close the Canadian-U.S. border, a move that allows expanding Hollywood film and TV production to continue north of the border, despite recent shutdowns.

"At this point, we are closing our borders to all non-residents. We are recognizing that, for the moment, that measure doesn't apply to American citizens," Trudeau told a press conference in Ottawa, while adding he had been in contact with U.S. President Donald Trump.

The Canadian leader added that the U.S. and Canadian economies are closely integrated, requiring further investigation into whether the Canadian-U.S. border may eventually have to be shut down. "We are not ruling out any measures. But we will take necessary measures when they become necessary," Trudeau said.

On Wednesday, that collaboration was followed by the U.S. and Canada agreeing to temporarily close their border to "non-essential traffic" to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus.

"We agreed that Canada and the United States will temporarily restrict all non-essential trade over the border," Trudeau told a press conference in Ottawa after speaking earlier in the day with President Trump. "I want to be clear that essential travel will continue. Canadians and American every day cross the border to do essential work. That will not be impacted."

Americans now entering Canada will need to answer a questionnaire about their health when arriving at the border, and will need to acknowledge an obligation to self-isolate for 14 days. Netflix, Warner Bros. and other major Hollywood players have already begun to shut down film and TV work in Canada as U.S. production north of the border already nears a standstill.

Tracey Wood, vp Canadian affiliates for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, representing U.S. film and TV producers, told The Hollywood Reporter on Monday that "the vast majority of U.S.-based productions have shut down" in Canada. 

Trudeau's call for a major lockdown of the country from foreigners came as politicians on Monday urged Canadians to embrace social distancing to contain the virus spread as most COVID-19 infection that, they maintain, has come from travelers from the U.S.

Canada banning entry to foreigners, including from Europe and Asia especially, has implications for international performers and other entertainment players being able to do business here.

Trudeau made his latest statement about tackling the transmission and infection from COVID-19 from just outside his home in Ottawa, where the Canadian leader has been self-isolating since his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Elsewhere in the Canadian production sector, top executives began to react to the latest cross-border restrictions, including a curtailment of international flights and its impact on expanding Hollywood film and TV production in the country.

"We are dealing with the situation regarding COVID-19 as it unfolds in real time. With things changing so quickly, we can’t comment on any specifics. This is an unprecedented situation, not only locally but globally, and we continue to work in the best interest of the professional artists and technicians of IATSE Local 891 through this difficult time," Phil Klapwyk, business representative for IATSE Local 891 in Vancouver, told THR in a statement.

The Canadian border restrictions are just the latest measures taken to curtail the virus outbreak. Canadian exhibition giant Cineplex and rival Landmark Cinemas earlier cut their seating capacity by 50 percent in each of their auditoriums nationwide for social distancing.

Moviegoing in Canada has slowed dramatically amid the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in sharply reduced box office revenue for domestic exhibitors.

Quebec on Sunday already chose to shut down cinemas in the province, along with other entertainment destinations, to curb the virus outbreak. "Following the most recent requests from the provincial government regarding the spread of COVID-19, we wish to confirm that the Guzzo Cinemas will be closed from Sunday March 15 at 5:30 p.m. until March 26," Quebec exhibition chain Cinema Guzzos said in a statement.

Late Monday, Toronto chief medical officer Dr. Eileen de Villa ordered her city's cinemas, concert halls and clubs to shut down immediately or face municipal action to do so. Over the weekend, meanwhile, Bell Lightbox, the year-round headquarters of the Toronto International Film Festival, said it will shutter its five screens for a month to April 14.

Canada so far has 407 confirmed or presumptive cases of the coronavirus, and four confirmed deaths from the outbreak.

March 16, 1 p.m. Updated with news of Toronto ordering city cinemas, concert halls and clubs to shut down.