Canada introducing stricter travel restrictions amid rise in COVID variants


Published on April 22nd, 2021 at 05:18pm EDT
Updated on April 22nd, 2021 at 05:33pm EDT

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.

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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.

What do international travellers to Canada need to know?

Currently, international travellers need to show proof of a COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours before travelling to Canada, whether by air or by land. Travellers by air are also required to take another test upon arrival in Canada.

These travellers must then quarantine at a government-approved hotel for three days while they wait for their results. After they are cleared, they are still required to travel to their final location where they will continue their 14-day quarantine.

Towards the end of their quarantine period, they will be required to once again take a COVID-19 test.

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Canada’s travel restrictions

Canada introduced travel restrictions in March 2020 to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The travel restrictions have been in place since. All non-essential travel to Canada continues to be restricted.

The following is a list of those who are exempt of the travel restrictions and can enter Canada:

  • Canadian citizens;
  • permanent residents of Canada;
  • immediate or extended family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents;
  • temporary foreign workers;
  • international students who are attending a designated learning institution that has a COVID-19 readiness plan;
  • holders of a Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) that was issued before March 18, 2020;
  • individuals coming to Canada for compassionate reasons such as to be present during the final moments of life of a loved one;
  • protected persons;
  • persons registered under Canada’s Indian Act;
  • transiting passengers.

Holders of a COPR that was issued after March 18, 2020 are still not allowed to travel to Canada at this time.

Canada grappling with third wave

Canadian provinces are facing a surge in COVID-19 cases, prompting stricter lockdown measures. Ontario has seen over 3,000 daily cases since early April. As a consequence, the province implemented a stay-at-home order and prohibited outdoor social gatherings for members of different households, as well as other measures.

As for Quebec, most areas in the province face an 8 p.m. or a 9.30 p.m. curfew. B.C. also introduced strict lockdown measures.

In the meantime, Canada is placing its focus on transitioning temporary residents in Canada to permanent residence status. This is in line with the country’s commitment to reach the 401,000 immigration target it set for itself. Such efforts include Express Entry draws that are specific to the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), as well as the introduction of six new immigration streams.

These streams will help healthcare workers, other essential workers, international graduates and French-speakers living in Canada get permanent residence. The streams are set to launch on May 6, 2021.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has said it looks forward to welcoming skilled immigrants from overseas when the COVID-19 situation improves.

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