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Hundreds of travellers landing in Canada test positive for COVID-19 variants

Last Updated Apr 28, 2021 at 12:44 pm PDT

The airport hotel is shown as people walk outside with their luggage at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Tuesday, February 2, 2021. The Canadian government might make it mandatory that all international travellers arriving in Canada must quarantine at the airport isolation hotel while waiting for the COVID-19 test results. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

OTTAWA – More than 2,000 people returning to Canada since mandatory hotel quarantines began have tested positive for COVID-19 and more than a quarter of them were infected with a variant of concern.

The data supplied to The Canadian Press by the Public Health Agency of Canada comes as the federal government is being pressured to take even more steps to keep new variants from getting into the country.

Data shows between February 22 and April 11, a total of 2,018 returning travellers tested positive on a test taken when they arrived in the country.

The agency says that is about one per cent of arrivals.

Further data shows as of April 22, exactly 557 people had tested positive for a variant of concern, including 518 of the strain first identified in the United Kingdom, 27 of the variant first detected in South Africa and 12 of the strain first found in Brazil.

Canada has banned flights from India and Pakistan, but allows flights from other countries, so long as passengers follow health restrictions.

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Nazeem Muhajarine, a professor of community health and epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan, says border restrictions are necessary but will only work well if complemented with local rules and enough testing and tracing to keep cases from spreading.

“There are all these loopholes and I think that’s because we seem to put one measure in place but not strengthen that, complement that with other measures that are required for that initial measure to have any effect,” said Muhajarine.

Canada has required a mandatory two-week quarantine for all international arrivals since March 2020 and since February 22nd, air passengers must spend the first three days of that at a quarantine hotel pending a COVID-19 test result.

Canada’s public safety minister says in response to a request for help, the federal government has been working with the Canadian Armed Forces, the Canadian Red Cross, and medical personnel from Newfoundland and Labrador in order to help fight COVID-19 in Ontario.

Bill Blair says the Trudeau government is now working with the province of Nova Scotia to help it fight back rising numbers of COVID-19.