Enhanced Border Measures

Date: March 23, 2020

Classification: Unclassified

Branch / Agency: TB/CBSA

Proposed Response:


To prevent potential transmission to Canada of the virus that is the cause of COVID-19, Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) Health Portfolio Operations Centre (HPOC) is implementing enhanced border measures at ports of entry to identify and effectively screen persons who are be feeling ill or unwell and to inform travellers of the need to self-isolate for 14 days.

Border Services Officers (BSOs) are to ask each traveller if they currently have a cough, difficulty breathing, or feel that they have a fever. If a traveller responds in the affirmative, they are to be isolated at the earliest opportunity, and provided a mask kit. In addition, they are to fill out the PHAC Coronavirus form, which allows health authorities to monitor and track those who have been in the impacted region and were asked to self-isolate. The form captures basic data, flight data, and contact information for the passenger while in Canada. These travellers will be automatically referred to a PHAC quarantine officer.

BSOs are to use a risk-based approach when processing travellers. When it comes to the COVID-19 situation, CBSA officers are to remain vigilant with respect to travellers coming from countries and regions where significant numbers of confirmed cases exist. BSOs are to use discretionary questioning techniques to establish whether or not a traveller may be ill, unwell or potentially transmitting COVID-19.

Under the International Health Regulations, to which Canada is a signatory, all travellers arriving in Canada who are ill or may be ill with a communicable disease, must be referred to Canadian health authorities for assessment and medical treatment until such time as they no longer present a threat to the public in Canada or abroad. This means that ill foreign nationals who arrive at point of entries may not be instructed to go back to their country of origin (in the land mode, drive back to the United States) while exhibiting signs of a suspected communicable disease and must always be referred to a PHAC quarantine officer for a health assessment.

Immigration and customs processing, questioning and examination are suspended until all screening, health assessment and medical examination/treatment under the Quarantine Act have been completed.

Responding to the Arrival of Symptomatic Travellers

Travellers found to be ill in-flight are met by CBSA officers at the gate, will be provided with a kit that includes a mask and instructions, and asked to wear the mask immediately. They will be escorted through the airport to ensure that they are kept away from other passengers. CBSA officers are already familiar with this standard procedure and work with airlines, airport authorities and PHAC to ensure an efficient and effective process is in place to protect the well-being of others.

Increased Presence

At all airports, additional teams of roving officers have been deployed throughout the arrivals area and baggage areas to engage with travellers and increase officer presence through conversation.

The additional officers are conducting further health screening and public outreach by visually observing arriving travellers and engaging them to question them on how they are feeling and to ensure that they are aware of the guidance provided by PHAC. CBSA officers will use their training to approach any traveller displaying signs of illness for further questioning.  CBSA officers are distributing revised PHAC pamphlets containing the latest health advice that advises travellers to self-isolate. All travellers will be asked if they are feeling sick or unwell by officers working podium or triage or document verification officers before they leave the CBSA area. This is in addition to maintaining normal staffing levels even though traveller volumes may be decreasing. 


Prepared by: Jayden Robertson, Senior Program Advisor, Travellers Branch, 613-854-4541

Approved by: John Ommanney, a/Vice-President, Travellers Branch, 613-952-3266

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