Canada's travel ban stopping direct flights from India, Pakistan continues

Canada's travel ban stopping direct flights from India, Pakistan continues

Canada is extending its travel ban on direct passenger flights from India and Pakistan until June 21.

The federal government is also extending the third country pre-departure testing for these countries, meaning that passengers who come to Canada via an indirect route must receive a negative COVID-19 test result from that third country before boarding the flight to Canada.

"These ongoing measures will remain in place to help protect Canadians and to mange the elevated risk of importing cases of COVID-19 and variants of concern into Canada," Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra said at a press conference on Friday.

On April 22, the federal government initially introduced a travel ban for passenger flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days, due to growing concerns around the spread of COVID-19 variants.

Minister Alghabra confirmed that Canada has seen a 96 per cent reduction in air travel and an 82 per cent reduction in land traffic into Canada from pre-pandemic levels.

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada's deputy chief public health officer, identified that from the public health perspective, variants of concern are top of mind.

"At the border, it's another layer of protection," Dr. Njoo said. "It's all a matter of what we would call risk tolerance and risk management."

"We're keeping an eye out. It's also an opportunity for us, in terms of our surveillance, to be able to track the variants and the development, and it helps us in terms of looking at other aspects, such as vaccine escape and so on."

Alghabra identified that the federal government is looking at the COVID-19 situation nationally, including hospitalizations, number of infections, vaccination rate, in addition to the pandemic situation in the country of origin of these flights to determine when to stop, or even additionally extend, the flight ban.

When asked about domestic travellers, the transport minister stressed provincial boundaries are the jurisdiction of the province.

"We have reached out to all provinces...saying we stand ready to work with you on whatever measures you would like to implement fo your provincial boundaries," Alghabra said.

He gave an example of the federal government working with Nova Scotia on their measure to restrict non-essential travel into the province, including working with airlines on making sure passengers are aware of the new rules.