OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – Canada is extending its ban on direct travel from India amid a continued concern over that country’s COVID-19 situation.
The ban is being extended by at least another month, until July 21, as India struggles to get its pandemic numbers under control.
“This means that direct, commercial, and private passenger flights from India will continue to be denied permission to arrive in Canada,” said Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra Monday. “Passengers who depart from India, bound for Canada via an indirect route must still obtain a valid COVID-19 test result from a third country before boarding a flight to Canada.”
Transport Minister @OmarAlghabra announces the passenger flight ban with India is extended for another 30 days.
However the restrictions on flights from Pakistan will not be renewed, so flights can soon resume. #cdnpoli
— Cormac Mac Sweeney (@cmaconthehill) June 21, 2021
While the restrictions on travel from India remain in place, Alghabra says those limiting flights from Pakistan are being scaled back.
“Based on the public health data, we will not be renewing the flight ban between Canada and Pakistan,” he said. “Air travellers from Pakistan will be required to obtain a COVID-19 molecular test in Pakistan to board a flight to Canada.”
Monday’s announcement comes the same day Canada unveiled more details on its plans to ease quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travellers permitted entry into this country. Those changes are set to take effect at 11:59 p.m. EDT on July 5.
While Canadians continue to be urged to avoid all non-essential travel, the transport minister promised an update would be coming.
“As the situation evolves, we will respond with new and adjusted border measures as needed, to keep Canadians safe and the economy running,” Alghabra added, noting he will be working with international, provincial, territorial, and industry partners to “determine next steps later this summer.”
“This could include expanding the number of Canadian airports that are eligible to receive international flights, and I hope to have more to share with you soon.”
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair also said discussions are ongoing “with the aim of allowing for non-essential travel of fully vaccinated foreign nationals into Canada in the coming months.”
Meanwhile, Monday’s announcement has those in B.C.’s Pakistani community excited about the prospect of heading back home again.
Naveed Waraich, president of the Pakistani Canadian Cultural Association, says when the flight ban was first announced, there was a feeling in the community that Pakistan was being unfairly lumped in with India, where the COVID-19 crisis was far more severe.
“We’ve been getting calls every day … they’re very happy about [the eased travel restrictions]. Before they were not happy, and now they’re happy to go back, so I think this is a great news,” he says.
At the time of the ban, Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said air passengers from Pakistan were testing positive at higher rates than average. However, in the weeks leading up to the ban, two direct flights from Pakistan to Canada carried at least one infected passenger, compared to 32 from India.
Waraich says that now he and his wife are fully vaccinated, they’re eager to go back to Pakistan.
“My wife, she was waiting to see her mum back home, and she was sick for a little while. Now I think this is the time,” he says.