Canada is trying to halt the spread of a new variant of COVID-19 by suspended flights from the United Kingdom for 72 hours.
The announcement, effective midnight Sunday Dec. 20, sees Canada join multiple countries from around the world in limiting travel from the UK while experts study the new variant.
The UK and World Health Organization (WHO) say the new variant appears to spread much more quickly than other strains of the coronavirus.
UK officials have described the strain as ‘out of control’ in their country.
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Passengers who arrived from the UK overnight were also subject to more intense screening and scrutiny of quarantine plans, a statement from the Public Health Agency of Canada said.
“Passengers who arrived recently from the United Kingdom will also receive additional direction from the Government of Canada,” the statement said.
Minister of Health Patty Hajdu said: “Our government will continue to do what’s necessary to protect the health of Canadians.
“These additional measures will allow public health officials time to gather further evidence and help reduce the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.”
Currently, no cases of the new strain have been reported in Canada.
Experts say existing COVID-19 vaccines appear to be as effective against the new variant. Symptom severity and antibody response also appear to be the same.
“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,” said Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety.
“The Canada Border Services Agency officers remain vigilant and are ready to implement these enhanced border measures to protect Canadians”
The closure of the Canada-U.S. border and restrictions on international travel have been in place since March and currently expire on January 21.
The U.S. continues to be ravaged by COVID-19, while Canada is battling a second wave of the pandemic across the country.
Canada’s travel restrictions bar entry to all except citizens and permanent residents, with some exemptions.
Canada currently has exemptions in place for the following people, provided they are travelling for a non-discretionary reason.
- Seasonal agricultural workers, fish/seafood workers, caregivers and all other temporary foreign workers.
- International students attending a Designated Learning Institution with an approved COVID-19 readiness plan.
- Permanent resident applicants who had been approved for permanent residence before the travel restrictions were announced on March 18, 2020, but who had not yet travelled to Canada.
- Immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents are also exempt if entering to be with an immediate family member for at least 15 days.
- Extended family members of citizens and permanent residents, plus foreign nationals travelling on compassionate grounds.