A special Air Canada flight has landed in Montreal, bringing 444 Canadians home from Morocco as borders shut down around the world amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The airline announced on Friday that it would fly an aircraft with 450 seats out of Casablanca to Montreal.
Global Affairs Canada is expected to coordinate local arrangements for the Canadians to return home, where they will then have to self-isolate for 14 days.
Any Canadians on the flight also underwent a health screening prior to boarding.
Morocco suspended all international flights out of the country recently. The country has seen 74 confirmed cases and three deaths as of March 21, according to the World Health Organization.
On Friday, Canada’s foreign affairs minister had urged Canadians in Morocco to book a seat on the flight, which had to be paid for, unlike the repatriation flights for Canadians who were stuck on cruise ships overseas.
The federal government has a program where loans of $5,000 per person are available to those overseas. The funds can be used for flights and accommodations.
Canadians registered with the Repatriation of Canadians Abroad program had received an email Friday outlining the cost of the flight, which was $1,272 plus tax per passenger, with tickets open to Canadian citizens and permanent residents only.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said travel restrictions in place around the world mean not every Canadian would be able to come home immediately.
He did mention the Air Canada flight that has now brought home hundreds of Canadians, and also named Peru and Spain as two potential countries from which Canada was working with airlines to bring home stranded citizens.
“We are going to ask people to stay safe, make smart choices and do the best they can in a situation that is unprecedented, exceptional and very difficult,” Trudeau said.
On Saturday night, Minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne tweeted that Canada is working with airlines to figure out repatriation from Peru, Spain, and Morocco.
“We are working with Canadian airlines to have commercial flights in coming days to bring Canadians home in these countries,” he said.
Meanwhile, WestJet says it has 34 repatriation flights planned to bring home Canadians from around the world between March 23 and 25.
— With files by Reuters, Global News reporter Sean Boynton
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