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

North Island Gazette file photo of Port Hardy council.
Port Hardy council to send RCMP officer a letter of congratulations

Mayor Dennis Dugas said Corp. Chris Voller ‘obviously earned it and he did a great job up here’

The Scott’s jewelry boxes and whales’ tails pedestal bowls. (Debra Lynn photo)
Port Alice woodworking business flourishes with word-of-mouth promotion

The Scotts have depended on local promotion and word-of-mouth connections to expand their business

Renovations are underway at the Old Schoolhouse as Cafe Guido gets ready to turn it into the Copper & Kelp Market. (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)
Cafe Guido purchases ‘dying’ Old Schoolhouse store to save it from extinction

After purchasing it they decided to give it a new name, coming up with ‘The Copper & Kelp Market’

A wolf was seen in a resident’s backyard in Port Hardy. (Al Dodd photo)
Conservation officers awaiting reports of wolves at the door in Port Hardy

Wildlife officials need more direct concrete information before reacting, as social media buzzes

Gourmet donuts made by Jesus Poem and Athena Guy. (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)
Italian gourmet donuts a hit in the North Island

Poem said the feedback on the gourmet donuts has been fantastic

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O���Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

(Kamloops This Week file photo)
Federal police unit takes over probe of B.C. regional district’s spending

Financial Integrity Sensitive Investigations Unit is now reviewing the case

A black bear made a visit to downtown Vancouver Tuesday, May 4. The animal was spotted on train tracks in Gastown shortly after at 2:30 p.m. (Twitter/Craig Minielly)
VIDEO: Black bear spotted meandering around downtown Vancouver

The bear was reportedly tranquilized by conservation officers Tuesday afternoon

Vivian Hermansen, Snuneymuxw First Nation, initiator of petition e-3281. Photo by Karen Evans.
Status card wait times an example of systemic racism, says Campbell River woman

Snuneymuxw woman launches petition as people waiting up to two years, as passports take three weeks

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez/Capital News)
Interior Health locks out Kelowna martial arts gym following COVID violations

Actions were taken after all other steps to gain compliance were exhausted, says health authority

A man who allegedly spat at and yelled racial slurs at an Asian family was arrested for hate-motivated assault Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
Arrest made after man spits, yells anti-Asian racial slurs at Victoria mom and kids

The man was arrested for hate-motivated assault near Quadra Elementary School Tuesday

A lady wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada may find it challenging to reach herd immunity from COVID-19, experts say

Level of immunity among the population changes with the variants, especially the more transmissible strains

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Dip in COVID-19 cases with 572 newly announced in B.C.

No new deaths have been reported but hospitalized patients are up to 481, with 161 being treated in intensive care

The courthouse in Nanaimo, B.C. (News Bulletin file)
Island man sentenced in Nanaimo after causing a dog unnecessary pain and suffering

Kiefer Tyson Giroux, 26, of Nanoose Bay, given six-month sentence

Most Read