Tuesday,  May 18, 2021  1:46 pm

"Double mutant" variant in India forces Canada to rethink its travel policies

"Double mutant" variant in India forces Canada to rethink its travel policies
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

Amid reports of a “double mutant” variant emerging in India, the Canadian government is looking into new travel policies that may ban flights from certain countries, such as India, due to a recent surge in coronavirus cases there.  

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said on Wednesday (April 21) that Canada will be “doing further analysis” into the situation in India, citing a “variant of interest.”

"We will be doing that risk assessment again, and using the data that we have now collected at the border to inform our next steps,’ Dr. Tam said.

India reported nearly 300,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 2,000 more deaths.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday (April 20) that he is open to imposing more travel measures after he extended Canada’s mandatory hotel quarantine and testing procedures for air and land arrivals until May 21.

“We are continuing to look at more and I have asked our officials to look carefully at, for example, what the U.K. has done very recently on suspending flights from India,” Trudeau said. 

READ MORE: Trudeau eyeing more restrictions after extending hotel quarantine/testing protocols

The U.K. already has added India to its “red list” of countries from which it bans incoming flights.

Under the order, only British citizens arriving from one of the 40 countries on the list are permitted entry and must abide to a 10-day quarantine in a hotel.

New rules for specific countries?

Canada has generally steered clear of banning flights from specific countries throughout the pandemic. 

But the federal government did, in late 2020, suspend flights from the U.K. for just over two weeks due to concerns about a COVID-19 variant that was discovered there.

Canada’s U.K. flight suspension was lifted on Jan. 6 after the government introduced its 72-hour pre-departure testing requirement for international arrivals.

India banned international flights in March, but Canada is one of 13 nations exempted through an “air bridge” agreement between the two countries.

According to government records, there have been 35 flights into Canada from India in the last two weeks that have contained at least one case of COVID-19. 


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