By Barry Ellsworth
TRENTON, Canada (AA) - Canada issued a warning to Canadians on Wednesday to cancel trips abroad as transmission of the omicron coronavirus variant spreads rapidly worldwide.
"To those who were planning to travel [internationally] I say very clearly -- now is not the time to travel," federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said at a press conference carried live on Canadian news websites. "The rapid spread of the omicron variant on a global scale makes us fear the worse."
Duclos said Canadians who do travel internationally could find themselves trapped in a foreign country with no way out if the virus causes governments to enact more lockdowns.
"The situation abroad is already dire in many places and it's going to get worse very quickly, so we're afraid for what could happen to them if they leave Canada," he said.
He added that the government will increase mandatory arrival testing at Canadian airports.
Before the press conference, it was bandied about that Canada would reintroduce arrival testing for Americans as well, but Wednesday's announcement stopped short of that. However, it could happen in the future, said Transport Minister Omar Alghabra.
"When we feel we need to change our policies, we'll announce it as quickly as possible," he said at the joint press conference. "For now, we're monitoring it.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to reporters a few hours before the press conference and said Canadians must exercise caution for the Christmas holidays.
"Canadians have been attentive [to COVID-19] for months and months," he said. "We've seen that people know how to do the right thing. They're going to have to be vigilant and make careful decisions about Christmas."
As of Wednesday, the omicron variant was confirmed in 60 countries, including Canada, and 30 US states.