Canada bans passenger flights from India, Pakistan for a month
The Canadian government has banned all passenger flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days due to the unprecedented spike in COVID-19 cases in the country, the longest country-specific travel ban imposed by Canada. "The flight ban took effect from midnight Thursday," Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said on Thursday. Here are more details.
Decision taken after advise from federal health officials
Transport Minister Alghabra said that the government imposed a 30-day ban on India and Pakistan, based on the advise from federal health officials to buy time to assess more data, and to provide certainty for Canadians considering traveling to the region, the Toronto Star reported. Other countries like UK, Australia, and Singapore have also imposed a travel ban to and from India.
Canada hoping to receive 1.5 million AstraZeneca doses from SII
However, the cargo flights are not banned and Ottawa is still hoping that India, which has suspended vaccine exports, will send the bulk of 1.5 million AstraZeneca doses Canada had purchased through the Serum Institute of India. "Those doses about one million are now in limbo, at least until June due to export controls in India," officials admitted on Thursday.
Several politicians wanted government to impose border restrictions
The moves come after the Liberal government came under fire from the Conservative opposition, the premiers of Canada's two largest provinces, and even their own MPs to tighten border restrictions as COVID-19 variants continue to spread in Canada.
No border measures are completely 100% effective: Dr. Tam
The government said that it had taken advice from Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam, who just a day before had said country-specific targeted measures can only go so far, and no border measures are completely 100 percent effective. Dr. Tam said that layers of protection are needed, especially given most cases here arise from community transmission, not travelers.
50% COVID-19 positive travelers to Canada came from India
In recent weeks, 50 percent of travelers arriving in Canada who tested COVID-19 positive came from India, even though those flights were only 20 percent of all international arrivals. And an alarming number of positive cases also showed up in travelers from Pakistan.
Scientists, researchers are trying to understand trajectory of COVID-19 cases
Health Minister Patty Hajdu said, "Those COVID-19-positive travelers were identified and required to quarantine. But it is a significant volume." "And given the epidemiological situation in India, it makes sense to pause travel from that region while our scientists and researchers have an ability to better understand where the trajectory of the cases in that region is going," he added
The situation in India is a raging epidemic
On Thursday, Canada's Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Howard Njoo referred to situation in India as a raging epidemic. At the same time, he said, that from a public health perspective it's almost impossible to stop viruses from spreading because borders are artificial.