An Air Canada Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet arrives at Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

An Air Canada Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet arrives at Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Canada to halt direct flights from India, Pakistan for 30 days due to COVID variant concerns

Cargo flights will still be allowed to enter Canada

Canada will be suspending all direct passenger flights from India and Pakistan for the next 30 days.

Federal Transportation Minister Omar Alghabra made the announcement during a Thursday (April 22) press conference.

The restrictions go into effect at 11:30 p.m. EST Thursday. Cargo flights will still be permitted.

Passengers flying indirectly from either India or Pakistan will have to complete an extra COVID-19 test at their last stop before boarding a flight to Canada. All air passengers already must take a pre-departure COVID test, as well as one upon arrival at the airport, and one 10 days into their 14-day mandatory hotel quarantine.

The move comes the day after Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said that while the government does not typically believe in limiting travel from specific countries, India may be a special case. Earlier on Thursday, all MPs in the House of Commons unanimously adopted a motion from the Bloc Québécois this afternoon calling for flights carrying non-essential travellers from certain countries, such as India and Brazil, to be barred.

READ MORE: Canada eyes policy on travel from India due to massive COVID surge

The B.1.617 variant was first discovered in India. That country has seen record-breaking COVID-19 cases lately, reporting more than 300,000 cases and 2,000 deaths Wednesday.

That variant is being considered a variant of interest by the World Health Organization, rather than a variant of concern like the U.K., South Africa and Brazil ones. It has been dubbed a “double mutant” variant because it has a double mutation on the spike protein gene.

Alghabra said that the 30-day period was chosen to give travellers a sense of certainty in the coming weeks. There have been least 32 flights from Delhi and two from Pakistan have landed in Canada in the last two weeks carrying passengers who later tested positive for COVID-19.

He warned against international travel anywhere, noting that that there should be no travel during the pandemic.

“Border restrictions can change at any time and you can be stuck in another country,” Alghabra said.

VIDEO: Trudeau defends Canada’s travel restrictions as effective but open to doing more

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said that will allow public health to better understand the COVID-19 situation in the region.

Hajdu said that all incoming air travellers who test positive for the virus undergo whole genome sequencing to discover which variant it may be.

“Only 1.8 per cent of travellers are found to be positive with COVID-19,” Hadju said.

“The data that we collect also allows us to identify when positive case rates change in a country specific manner.”

She said that India, which accounts for 20 per cent of recent air travel to Canada, accounts for 50 per cent of all positive COVID-19 tests from travellers. Pakistan, Hadju said, has a similarly high rate of positive cases compared to incoming travellers.

While flights from Brazil are not banned, federal ministers said that they would not hesitate to do so if they felt the need was there.

There have been 39 cases of the B.1.617 variant in B.C. prior to April 4, according to the health ministry, before it was identified as a variant of interest.

– with files from The Canadian Press


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Air TravelCoronavirus

Just Posted

B.C. Centre for Disease Control data showing new cases by local health area for the week of May 2-8. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island COVID-19 local case counts the lowest they’ve been all year

On some areas of Island, more than 60 per cent of adults have received a vaccine dose

A nurse gets a swab ready to perform a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Island’s daily COVID-19 case count drops below 10 for just the second time in 2021

Province reports 8 new COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island Wednesday

Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Campbell River dock fire spread slowed thanks to security guard

Creosote docks pose challenges for fire fighters

Scenes like this one in the dugout are all too frequent for parents and kids arriving to play baseball at Nunns Creek Park these days, spurring a request to the city to let them move to the Sportsplex in Willow Point. Photo from CRMB presentation to City of Campbell River
Safety concerns run Campbell River Minor Baseball out of Nunns Creek Park

Parents say ‘needle and feces sweeps’ have become part of everyday life for the baseball community

The cover of the newly redesigned Beaver Lodge Forest Lands activity guide. Photo courtesy Greenways Land Trust
Greenways redesigns Beaver Lodge activity guide

Guide has helped teach students for over a decade

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

Canada’s demo Hornet soars over the Strait of Georgia near Comox. The F-18 demo team is returning to the Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Sgt. Robert Bottrill/DND
F-18 flight demo team returning to Vancouver Island for spring training

The team will be in the Comox Valley area from May 16 to 24

Saanich police and a coroner investigated a fatal crash in the 5200-block of West Saanich Road on Feb. 4, 2021. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Police determine speed, impairment not factors in fatal Greater Victoria crash

Driver who died veered across centre line into oncoming traffic for unknown reason, police say

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Bow-legged bear returns to Ladysmith, has an appointment with the vet

Brown Drive Park closed as conservation officers search for her after she returned from relocation

Brian Peach rescues ducklings from a storm drain in Smithers May 12. (Lauren L’Orsa video screen shot)
VIDEO: Smithers neighbours rescue ducklings from storm drain

Momma and babies made it safely back to the creek that runs behind Turner Way

Signage for ICBC, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, is shown in Victoria, B.C., on February 6, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
$150 refunds issued to eligible customers following ICBC’s switch to ‘enhanced care’

Savings amassed from the insurance policy change will lead to one-time rebates for close to 4 million customers

Pixabay
Island Health: two doctors, new clinic space to avert Port McNeill health crisis

Island Health has leased space to use as an immediate clinic location to avert health crisis

Police investigate a fatal 2011 shooting in a strip mall across from Central City Shopping Centre, which was deemed a gang hit. The Mayor’s Gang Task Force zeroed in on ways to reduce gang involvement and activity. (File photo)
COVID-19 could be a cause in public nature of B.C. gang violence: expert

Martin Bouchard says the pandemic has changed people’s routines and they aren’t getting out of their homes often, which could play a role in the brazen nature of shootings

A poignant Pandemic Postcard Project submission has led Lesley Wright and Graham Hughes of Literacy Alberni on a new path toward anti-racism education. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
‘I am not a virus’: How one postcard sparked a Vancouver Island pushback against racism

Literacy Alberni receives $50K in funding to create web-driven system for reporting racism

Most Read