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

Andrew Swanson was arrested Wednesday after he was wanted for an alleged choking assault and for obstructing police. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Victoria police arrest Andrew Swanson on warrants for alleged choking assault, obstruction

A member of the public spotted Swanson and called 911 before police came and made the arrest

(Black Press Media file photo)
Youth sustains minor injuries in stabbing at Saanich Plaza

Suspect under age of 16 taken into custody, no risk to the public, police say

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
West Shore proud owners of B.C.’s first electric school bus

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 25-May 1. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 case counts continue to trend down

Fewer than 200 active cases on the Island, down from highs of 500-plus earlier this spring

With the help of a $110,000 federal grant, Saanich will be adding 22 new EV chargers for its municipal fleet to reduce emissions from district operations. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich adds 22 new EV chargers for municipal fleet to reduce corporate emissions

Federal grant adds $110,000 jolt to project, installation to be completed fall 2022

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

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Findings indicate a culture of racism, misogyny and bullying has gripped the game with 64 per cent of people involved saying players bully others outside of the rink. (Pixabay)
Misogyny, racism and bullying prevalent across Canadian youth hockey, survey finds

56% of youth hockey players and coaches say disrespect to women is a problem in Canada’s sport

People line up outside an immunization clinic to get their Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hospital investigating whether Alberta woman who died after AstraZeneca shot was turned away

Woman was taken off life support 12 days after getting vaccine

People line up for COVID-19 vaccination at a drop-in clinic at Cloverdale Recreation Centre on Wednesday, April 27, 2021. Public health officials have focused efforts on the Fraser Health region. (Aaron Hinks/Peace Arch News)
B.C. reports 1st vaccine-induced blood clot; 684 new COVID cases Thursday

Two million vaccine doses reached, hospital cases down

Most Read