Premier Doug Ford repeated calls Friday for the federal government to tighten the country’s borders to keep out virus variants that originated outside Canada.
If he had the power, he would close Pearson International airport immediately, the premier said, and limit land border crossing to essential trips.
He railed against the phenomenon of people travelling to Canada from the U.S. by flying to northern New York, then hiring a taxi or renting a car to drive to the border before driving or walking across.
All travellers entering Canada must quarantine for 14 days whether they arrive by plane or at a land border. However, only those who arrive by air are required to spend three days of their quarantine period at a government-approved isolation hotel.
Ford said the land border rules were full of “massive loopholes” and said there should be hotel quarantines required for people arriving by land at major border crossings, too.
“People are exploiting the weak measures at our land border to get around the hotel quarantine.”
The premier has been in self-isolation after coming into close contact last week with a staffer who tested positive for COVID-19.
Health Minister Christine Elliott and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones requested tighter borders in a letter to the federal government earlier this week.
In the letter Monday to the federal ministers of health and public safety, Ontario said it has already closed its boundaries with Quebec and Manitoba to non-essential travel, but there are no measures in place to protect provinces from the spread of COVID-19 variants through interprovincial air travel, an area of federal responsibility.
At another news conference on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there are already tight controls at Canada’s land borders, including tests before and after crossing and the mandatory two-week quarantine.
Trudeau also said Ontario had asked Ottawa to suspend the arrival of international students and that federal officials will reach out to work directly with the province. He says no other province has made the same request.
And Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said that while there appears to be a “pre-occupation” with border controls, the measures now in place are reasonable to mitigate risk. Njoo, speaking at a federal press conference, emphasized the need to curb community transmission of the virus and vaccinate the population.
Ontario reported 3,887 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.
That brings the total number of cases to 463,364 since the pandemic began.
The province also reported that 21 more people died of the virus, bringing the total number of deaths to 8,050.
Toronto continues to lead the province, with 1,331 new cases, followed by Peel (871 cases); York (267); Durham (208); and Hamilton (204).
In health regions in the Ottawa area, Eastern Ontario, which includes Cornwall and Hawkesbury, saw 27 new cases, Kingston reported 10, Leeds, Grenville and Lanark saw four and Renfrew County and District had five.
The province conducted 53,074 tests Thursday with a positivity rate of 7.4 per cent.
There were 112,214 more vaccines administered.