Canada’s largest province, Ontario, declares state of emergency to blunt pandemic

A flatbed truck at a construction site in downtown Toronto, Canada, on March 13.

The premier of Canada’s largest province, Ontario, declared a state of emergency this morning, banning public gatherings and closing restaurants among a spate of measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The new measures, however, preserve key openings that will soften the blow for the transportation and logistics sector. 

“It’s absolutely critical that we keep the supply chain moving,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said during a news conference in Toronto. He spoke less than a day after the federal government announced extraordinary measures to tighten Canada’s borders.

It is crucial that transportation and logistics companies with exposure to the foodservice industry, grocery and convenience stores remain open, and restaurants and bars can still operate takeout and delivery service. The city of Toronto meanwhile began allowing retailers to take deliveries 24 hours a day to facilitate restocking.

Trucks in Canada have been moving more loads of freight since March 1, according to the Outbound Tender Volume Index on FreightWaves’ SONAR platform.

Trucks have continued to handle increasing numbers of loads in the Toronto area, as well as Canada as a whole, as the coronavirus pandemic has worsened. The Outbound Tender Volume Index (OTVI.CAN) on FreightWaves’ SONAR platform is tracking near a November 2019 high in the aftermath of the November strike by Canadian National rail workers.  

Border lockdown leaves openings for cross-border freight

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Monday “aggressive” steps to lock down the country’s borders to curb the spread of coronavirus but left crucial openings that will allow freight to move from the United States.

“We will continue to ensure that Canada receives important goods,” Trudeau said during a news conference outside his home in Ottawa. Trudeau is in self-imposed isolation with his wife, Sophie Grégoire, who is recovering from COVID-19.

The most significant step is banning the entry of most people who are not citizens or permanent residents of Canada. Exemptions include U.S. citizens as well as travel for business and trade purposes – which means American truck drivers can continue to bring freight into Canada.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau also made clear that Canadian truck drivers who make regular cross-border deliveries are not expected to restrict their travel or self-isolate if they show no coronavirus symptoms. Canadians returning from another country currently are being told to self-isolate for 14 days upon return.

Canadian Trucking Alliance President Steve Laskowski welcomed the provisions to ensure that trucks will continue to move between Canada and the United States.

“We applaud Minister Garneau and the government for recognizing that even in these extraordinary times, the border with the U.S. and Canada needs to stay open for commerce,” Laskowski told FreightWaves.

Laskowski stressed that truck drivers showing symptoms for the coronavirus or having tested positive for COVID-19 need to be isolated. But he said a 14-day isolation period for drivers merely for crossing the border “would have been a disaster.”

Officials also announced the arrival of international flights will be limited to the country’s four largest airports: Toronto Pearson, Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary. The four airports handle the highest number of passengers and volumes of freight in Canada.

Canada had 424 confirmed cases of coronavirus and four deaths as of Tuesday.