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Canada announces closure of border, with some exceptions

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WBFO News

As a means to slow the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus, Canada is closing its border to most foreigners beginning March 18, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday. U.S. citizens, however, are exempt.

Only Canadian citizens and permanent residents will be granted continued access. Trudeau acknowledged the signifcant relationship with the U.S. is a factor in exempting Americans from the ban. Western New York's economy, for example, relies heavily on tourism and cross-border commerce.

Trudeau said the government's action is at the advice of public health experts, though days before Health Minister Patty Hajdu said border closures have not proven particularly effective elsewhere.

The number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Canada more than doubled since Friday, including 32 new confirmed cases in Ontario on Monday.

Canadians now abroad have been instructed to return. The prime minister says a fund is being established to help people who are finding it financially difficult to arrange travel home amid rising ticket prices.

The government is also restricting overseas flights to just four airports in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver, and mandating airlines to screen passengers for symptoms of the virus before allowing anyone to board a plane. Those returning home to Canada will be required to undergo a 14-day isolation period upon arriving.

The pandemic is also affecting a favorite Canadian destination.

Shaw Festival was in full rehearsals, with the first performance of Brandon Thomas' "Charley's Aunt" slated to go up on April 2. That won't happen. The festival announced Monday that festival administration and show rehearsals are stopping because of the coronavirus until April 6.

At this phase of the theater season, Niagara-on-the-Lake is filled with performers and technical personnel working long hours, getting ready for the season. Marketers are selling tickets and and administrators are getting everything ready for a festival with three-different stages.

Tickets are ready for thousands of purchasers. Hotels and restaurants are gearing up for the theater customers and the many tourists who visit the town to sight-see and shop.

A virus so small scientists need electron microscopes to see it has shut everything down. The festival said it was guidance from Canadian and Ontario governments and with the Chief Medical Officer of Canada that led to the decision to shut down all public events and performances and send performers, techies, administrative and box office personnel home.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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