Yesterday, the federal government announced an update of Canada's international travel restrictions. During the update, they announced a ban on direct flights from India and from Pakistan for 30 days, specifically targeting passenger flights.
Omar Alghabra, Minister of Transport, addressed the decision last night. “The COVID-19 pandemic can change rapidly,” he said, citing concerns about pressure on the Canadian health-care system and the “continued spread of variants of concern.”
“I am suspending all commercial and passenger flights arriving in Canada from India and Pakistan for 30 days.”
The measure went into effect at 11:30 p.m. ET on Thursday and will not affect cargo flights.
According to Minister Hajdu, half of air travellers that have tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Canada came from India, even though only one-fifth of air traffic involved Indian flights.
Of further concern is the B.1.617 COVID variant, which has been characterized as a "variant of interest" and is being described as a “double mutant” due to a pair of mutations that the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare says may confer “immune escape and increased infectivity.”
Alberta recorded its first case of the variant on Thursday, while Quebec reported its first case of the variant the day before.
“We should be worried,” said Donald Vinh, an infectious disease specialist and a medical microbiologist at the McGill University Health Centre. “If a variant can spread into another country, that means it has some capacity for survival fitness and that usually means it’s as or more transmissible than the current strain.”