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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

“Skeena,” by John Hudson and Paul Hanslow is one of five fonts in the running to become the default for Microsoft systems and Office programs. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Font named after Skeena River could become the next Microsoft default

One of the five new fonts will replace Calibri, which has been Microsoft’s default since 2007

CGL’s graphic of the month showing planned activity for summer. (CGL update/Lakes District News)
Coastal GasLink reaches 692 km pipe delivery milestone

2 new COVID cases linked with pipeline accomodations

Volunteers from Tachie and Binche spent Sunday morning and afternoon cleaning up the Tachie Highway. (Joshua Hallman photo)
Tachie and Binche communities cleanup Tachie Highway

“We don’t just say we care about the environment,” said organizer. “We take action.”

CN Rail locomotives are moved on tracks past cargo containers sitting on idle train cars at port in Vancouver last February. RCMP in Northern, B.C. are currently investigating after a CN Freight Train struck some debris that appeared to be intentionally placed across the track on the Nechako River Bridge in Fraser Lake (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Freight Train strikes debris on Nechako River Bridge: RCMP

Intentionally placed debris could have resulted in a disaster

Highway 16 between Prince George and Vanderhoof was reduced to single lane alternating traffic April 21, 2021 at Cluculz Lake between East Bay and Lloyd Drive due to a slide. (YRB Vanderhoof photo)
Repair efforts continuing on Highway 16 after slide

Two-way traffic restored earlier this week

Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Trudeau says he is glad he got AstraZeneca, vaccines are only way out of pandemic

‘The most important thing is to get vaccinated with the first vaccine offered to you’

Solar panels on a parking garage at the University of B.C. will be used to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter captured to supply a vehicle filling station. (UBC video)
UBC parkade project to use solar energy for hydrogen vehicles

Demonstration project gets $5.6M in low-carbon fuel credits

FILE – A student arrives at school as teachers dressed in red participate in a solidarity march to raise awareness about cases of COVID-19 at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. ‘should be able to’ offer 1st dose of COVID vaccine to kids 12+ by end of June: Henry

Health Canada authorized the vaccine for younger teens this morning

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A woman in the Harrison Mills area was attacked by a cougar on Tuesday, May 4. B.C. Conservation Officers killed two male cougars in the area; the attack was determined to be predatory in nature. (File photo)
2 cougars killed following attack on woman in Agassiz area

Attack victim remains in hospital in stable condition

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. CDC updates info, acknowledging small respiratory droplets can spread COVID-19

Large droplets, not aerosols had been fixture of public health messaging for many months

A picture of Shirley Ann Soosay was rendered from a postmortem photographer and circulated on social media. (DDP graphic)
B.C. genealogist key to naming murder victim in decades-old California cold case

In July 1980, Shirley Ann Soosay was raped and stabbed to death

Mary Kitagawa was born on Salt Spring Island and was seven years old when she was interned along with 22,000 B.C. residents in 1942. (B.C. government video)
B.C. funds health services for survivors of Japanese internment

Seniors describe legacy of World War II displacement

Most Read