Canada suspends flights from India, Pakistan over coronavirus concerns
Canada is set to ban flights from Pakistan and India for a 30-day period, citing concerns about coronavirus variants from the nations entering the country.
Canadian Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced during a virtual press conference on Thursday that commercial and private flights from both countries into Canada will be suspended beginning at 11:30 p.m. on Thursday night, according to Radio-Canada.
“As we’ve seen with our third wave, the COVID-19 pandemic can change rapidly,” Alghabra stated during the conference, the news outlet noted. “New variants can spread even faster than before and our health system is feeling even more pressure than ever before.”
The ban will not apply to essential cargo flights, which would carry supplies such as personal protective equipment and vaccines, Radio-Canada reported.
Currently, Canada requires all arrivals to be tested for COVID-19 and to quarantine for 10 days after entering the country. According to Canada’s health minister, Patty Hajdu, only 1.8 percent of air passengers have tested positive for COVID-19, though in recent days an influx of positive cases has been found in travelers from India and Pakistan.
“It is important that we continue to have robust measures to protect against importation as we see provinces and territories around this country struggle to protect their citizens, Canadians, through the third wave,” Hajdu said while pointing out that people traveling from India accounted for nearly 50 percent of positive COVID-19 tests, though only 20 percent of travelers from India travel to the country.
She also noted similar statistics for travelers coming from Pakistan, Radio-Canada reported.
“By eliminating direct travel from these countries, public health experts will have the time to evaluate the ongoing epidemiology of that region and to reassess the situation as the region works to reduce transmission and protect its people,” she said, according to the news outlet.
India surpassed the record for the most new COVID-19 cases in a day on Thursday, with 314,000 new cases of the virus reported.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Quebec Premier François Legault reportedly issued a joint statement on Thursday urging the country’s federal government to limit incoming international flights and to secure the Canada-U.S. land border.
“There is an urgent need to address issues with testing and quarantining at the borders, including falsified COVID-19 testing documentation, travelers opting [for] fines over complying [with] quarantine requirements, or traveling via private vehicle/plane to avoid quarantine, among several other areas of concern,” they wrote, according to Radio-Canada.