Canada has banned all passenger flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days due to the growing wave of COVID-19 cases in that region, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said.
“Given the higher number of cases of COVID-19 detected in air passengers arriving in Canada from India and Pakistan … I am suspending all commercial and private passenger flights arriving in Canada from Indian and Pakistan for 30 days,” Alghabra told a news conference on Thursday.
The measure went go into effect at 11:30pm Eastern Time on Thursday (03:30 GMT on Friday).
It will not apply to cargo flights, Alghabra said, particularly to ensure the continued shipment of vaccines, personal protective equipment and other essential goods.
More than a million people living in Canada are of Indian descent while there are 100,000 Canadians who have Pakistani ancestry.
India, which is undergoing an alarming surge being blamed on a “double mutant” variant and super-spreader events, recorded the world’s highest daily tally of coronavirus cases for a second day in a row on Friday, while daily deaths from COVID-19 also jumped by a record.
With 332,730 new cases, India’s total caseload has now passed 16 million. Deaths rose by 2,263 to reach a total of 186,920, according to health ministry data.
Canadian Health Minister Patty Hajdu said that overall only 1.8 percent of travellers to Canada have tested positive for coronavirus.
While India accounts for 20 percent of recent air travel to Canada, more than half of all positive tests at the border were from flights arriving from the country, she said, adding that “a similarly high level of cases … have also been linked to Pakistan”.
Canada in December briefly suspended flights from Britain over concerns about outbreaks of a COVID-19 variant.
Earlier on Thursday Parliament voted unanimously to urge the government to ban non-essential flights from COVID-19 hotspots where variants have surged, including India and Brazil.
Alghabra said there are currently no scheduled flights between Canada and Brazil, but added that “we will not hesitate to ban travel to other countries if the science bears that out”.