Canada halts all flights from United Kingdom over new coronavirus strain
Canada is the latest country to halt flights from the United Kingdom over fears about a new coronavirus strain.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said in a message on Twitter that the country would close the border to all flights entering Canada from the UK starting at midnight on December 20th.
The measures were put in place after receiving advice from public health officials and meeting with the prime minister earlier in the day.
Blair said flights will be cancelled for the next three days in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Canada. However, the measures could be extended or enhanced beyond 72 hours, he added.
“It is essential to the health and safety of all Canadians that we continue to quickly adapt our border measures to respond to the evolving COVID-19 situation,” Blair said in a statement.
“The Canada Border Services Agency officers remain vigilant and are ready to implement these enhanced border measures to protect Canadians.”
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Health Canada attributed the closure to the high number of cases of a variant COVID-19 virus recorded in some areas of the UK.
The agency said it is monitoring the genetic variant of the virus identified in the UK and is working closely with international partners, including the World Health Organization, to understand its impacts.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau convened a meeting of the Incident Response Group earlier in the day to discuss the variant, along with Minister of Health Patty Hajdu, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair and Minister of Transport Marc Garneau.
“Genetic variation of viruses such as the one that causes COVID-19 is to be expected and have been previously observed in parts of the world this year,” the agency said in a statement.
“While early data suggest that the United Kingdom variant may be more transmissible, to date there is no evidence that the mutations have any impact on symptom severity, antibody response or vaccine efficacy.”
Italy, the Netherlands, Austria and Belgium have also closed their borders to UK flights, and more nations are expected to follow in the coming days.
Since March, Canada has required international travellers to quarantine or isolate for 14 days after entering the country.
But now, Health Canada says passengers who arrived in Canada today from the UK are subject to additional measures. Those include secondary screening and “increased scrutiny of quarantine plans,” according to a bulletin from Health Canada issued Sunday.
Passengers who arrived on flights in previous days from the UK will receive direction from the Canadian government, according to the bulletin.