Canada is banning passenger flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days amid concerns over rising COVID-19 cases and a new virus mutation, says Transport Minister Omar Alghabra.
In the last two weeks, more than 100 international flights landing in Canada have carried at least one positive COVID-19 case on board, according to the federal government.
At least 32 of those flights were from India.
Alghabra addressed the decision in a press conference on Thursday evening.
“The COVID-19 pandemic can change rapidly,” he said on Thursday, citing rising pressure on the Canadian health-care system and the “continued spread of variants of concern.”
“I am suspending all commercial and passenger flights arriving in Canada from India and Pakistan for 30 days.”
The measure goes into effect at 11:30 p.m. ET on Thursday and does not affect cargo flights.
Half of air travellers that have tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Canada came from India, even though only one-fifth of air traffic involved Indian flights.
India has been flooded with new COVID-19 infections, with over 314,000 new cases recorded on Thursday alone – the highest daily increase recorded anywhere in the world. The surge is threatening India’s hospitals, with some issuing notices to say they have only a few hours of medical oxygen required to keep COVID-19 patients alive.