April 23, 2021

Canada introducing stricter travel restrictions amid rise in COVID variants

Travel ban in place for passenger and cargo flights from India and Pakistan to curb the spread of COVID-19 variants.

As Canada sees a surge in COVID-19 cases involving new variants, the federal government announced on April 22 that it will introduce tighter travel restrictions to halt potential spread and protect Canadians. 

The travel restrictions include the banning of all passenger and cargo flights from India and Pakistan starting at 11:30 p.m. EST on April 22, 2021, for 30 days.

However, cargo flights carrying vaccines and protective equipment will continue to be allowed to enter Canada.

Those who travel to Canada from India or Pakistan via an indirect route will need to obtain a negative COVID-19 test from their last point of departure, according to Omar Alghabra, Canada’s transport minister.

According to the federal government, there were 35 flights that arrived in Canada with at least one COVID-19 case, in the last two weeks.

This is not the first time Canada has taken such a measure. In December 2020, international flights from the U.K. were banned for more than two weeks, after a new COVID-19 variant was discovered there.

India variant cause for concern in Canada

The variant is called B.1.6.1.7. According to Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, the variant is not a variant of concern (VOC), but a variant of interest.

“They’re labelled at some point a variant of interest, and then at a certain point if it looks like there’s obviously implications for public health, be it being more transmissible, maybe causing more severe health outcomes, then it becomes a designated variant of concern,” said Njoo.

Some vaccines may be less effective with the new variant. Speaking to CBC News, Dr. Cora Constantinescu of the Vaccine Hesitancy Clinic at the Alberta Children’s Hospital said, “There are two mutations in it that gives it the ability to be more transmissible to possibly escape some vaccine responses and to be more severe.”

On Thursday, India recorded the highest number of new COVID-19 cases in a single day in the world, with more than 314,000 new infections reported and 2,104 new virus-related deaths. In total, the country has over 15.9 million COVID-19 cases, the second highest after the U.S.

India has the second highest population in the world, with over 1.3 billion people.

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