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

The Surrey Board of Trade is calling on the provincial government to implement a temporary paid sick-leave program. (Unsplash.com photo by Kelly Sikkema)
Surrey Board of Trade calls for temporary paid sick-leave program

Reccomendations sent to provincial labour minister, news release notes

North Surrey Sport and Ice Complex. (Photo: larkgroup.com)
North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex earns B.C. facility excellence award

Award is among four presented by BC Recreation and Parks Association

Surrey RCMP officers on scene of a vehicle fire, which is believed to be an arson, in the area of Currie Drive and Grosvenor Road Wednesday afternoon (May 5, 2021). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Whalley vehicle fire ‘believed to be an arson’: Surrey RCMP

Police say ‘at this point’ it doesn’t seem to be tied to ongoing violence in the Lower Mainland

Low tide offered plenty of space for people to relax on White Rock's beach Sunday afternoon. (Aaron Hinks photo)
City of White Rock asking outside visitors to stay away

South Surrey residents encouraged to visit, while others urged to stick close to home

Surrey Central SkyTrain Station. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Suspect accused of ‘abhorrent’ assaults at Surrey SkyTrain stations

Transit Police say assaults were on April 9, 14 and 17

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’

Ripy Jubbal of Abbotsford has received a 30-month jail sentence for the fraudulent use of credit cards and credit card data. (Facebook photo)
Abbotsford woman sentenced for $80K in fraudulent credit card purchases

Ripy Jubbal and spouse used identities of 19 different victims, court hears

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

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

Mike Haire, a former vice-principal at W. A. Fraser Middle School in Abbotsford, began court proceedings on Monday, May 3 in New Westminster for two child pornography offences.
Trial paused for former Abbotsford vice-principal charged with child porn

Judge reserves decision on admissibility of evidence against Mike Haire

Most Read