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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Ottawa suspends flights from India, Pakistan; B.C. announces travel restrictions

Friday, April 23, 2021 @ 2:02 PM | By Ian Burns

With Canada in the throes of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, politicians both federally and provincially have taken steps to crack down on travel.

Transport Canada has suspended all direct commercial and private passenger flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days, as of April 22. Passengers who depart India or Pakistan via an indirect route will need to obtain a negative COVID-19 pre-departure test from a third country before continuing their journey to Canada.

 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

At his April 23 press conference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government is ready to do “whatever it takes” to get the third wave under control. He said the government has identified up to 100 health-care professionals who can be employed rapidly to places like the Greater Toronto Area which are seeing a surge in cases.

“I understand that there is a lot of COVID fatigue right now — we all feel it,” he said. “But the more we reduce our contacts the faster we will end this third wave. I know it isn’t easy but remember that this is not forever.”

Both India and Pakistan have seen a massive increase in COVID-19 cases, with India recently seeing daily new case counts in excess of 300,000. All travellers entering Canada are subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine period.

“Throughout this pandemic, we have adapted our response to emerging science with one goal in mind: protecting Canadians,” said Health Minister Patty Hajdu. “We have established some of the strongest border measures in the world, to test, screen, and quarantine incoming travellers. With the current pressure on hospitals and health care workers, we also need to reduce our contacts and avoid crowded places more than ever.”

 Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth

And it was not only the federal government that was turning its attention to travel concerns. British Columbia has issued issued a new order to prohibit non-essential travel between three regional zones in the province, using health authority boundaries. Those zones are the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley (Fraser Health and Coastal Health regions), Vancouver Island (Island Health region) and Northern/Interior (Interior Health and Northern Health regions).

“The new variant strains are infecting more people and resulting in record levels of hospitalizations that place a growing strain on the front-line health workers who have been here for us throughout this pandemic,” Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said. “While this new legal order targets those who are travelling across regional zones for recreational purposes, the advice from [provincial health officer] Dr. Bonnie Henry to stay local remains in place everywhere in B.C. Do not go to Whistler or Tofino — even on a day trip. Everyone should stay close to home.”

The order is in effect until May 25, and applies to everyone in the province, including non-essential travellers from outside B.C. If compliance measures are deemed necessary by police, fines can be handed out. At the discretion of police, a contravention of the order may be subject to a $575 fine.

The province also said it will work with police to establish periodic road checks at key travel corridors during times associated with leisure travel to remind travellers of the order. Police will not engage in random checks, and enforcement measures will be informed by discussions with stakeholders on limiting the impacts to racialized communities. These road checks will be set up near ferry terminals and on highway corridors that connect different regions of the province.

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