The Government of Canada is extending its ban on passenger flights from India and Pakistan for another month.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced the extension at a press conference on May 21, one day before the ban was expected to be lifted. It will now be in place until June 21.
Direct commercial and passenger flights from India and Pakistan will continue to be denied entry into Canada.
Passengers flying indirectly into Canada will need to obtain a COVID-19 test from a third country – not India or Pakistan – before boarding their final flight.
“These ongoing measures will remain in place to help protect Canadians and manage the elevated risk of imported cases of COVID-19 and variants of concern,” Alghabra said.
“I can say that we have seen a significant reduction in the number of positive cases of COVID-19 arriving from international flights since this restriction was put in place.”
The decision to extend the flight ban was made based on public health, Alghabra said, noting that the pandemic is still placing “increased pressure” on Canada’s healthcare system.
Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said that although recent data shows less than 1% of international travellers tested at the border have COVID-19, those that do test positive primarily present with a variant of concern.
“We have our work cut out for us with the third wave,” Njoo said.
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The federal government first banned direct passenger flights from India and Pakistan on April 22. The ban does not affect cargo flights.
At the time, officials said that India accounted for 20% of air travel volumes to Canada, but over 50% of all positive tests were conducted at the border.
The ban is intended to stop the importation of the B.1.617.1 COVID-19 variant. First detected in India in March, the “double mutant” variant has spurred a massive resurgence of COVID-19 in the South Asian country.
“Our government’s top priority is protecting Canadian’s health and safety,” Alghabra said. “We know that this is not the right time to loosen any measures right now.”