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Canada Suspends Flights from Pakistan, India for 30 Days

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo. Farooq Naeem—AFP

Ban goes into effect today, and is part of Ottawa’s measures to curb the spread of COVID-19

Canada on Thursday announced it was ‘temporarily’ suspending direct flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days to help it curb the spread of new variants of COVID-19.

The restriction, which came into effect at 8:30 a.m. Pakistan standard time on Friday morning, was announced during a virtual press conference. It follows a dramatic surge in coronavirus infections in India, which reported 314,835 new cases in a single day yesterday—the highest by any country since the pandemic began last year. While Pakistan’s daily case rise is significantly lower—hovering around 5,000—it, too, has seen a sustained surge in new infections, and health experts warn that low testing numbers are likely preventing a true picture of the country’s viral spread from emerging.

Health experts have warned that a “double mutant” variant appears to be spreading through India, which is deadlier and far more infectious than earlier strains of COVID-19. Authorities in Pakistan have said the bulk of cases being reported here are of the U.K. variant.

The U.K. has also placed both Pakistan and India on a travel ‘red-list,’ which bars any travelers from those countries except for British citizens, who are required to undergo a mandatory hotel quarantine for 10 days before being allowed to go home. On Thursday, the United Arab Emirates also suspended all flights from India.

“Given the higher number of cases of COVID-19 detected in air passengers arriving into Canada from India and Pakistan, Transport Canada is issuing a notice to airmen, or NOTAM, to halt direct passenger air traffic from those countries,” announced Transport Minister Omar Alghabra at the virtual press conference. He said that Canada would not hesitate to ban flights from additional countries, if needed, to curb the spread of new variants of the novel coronavirus.

Canadian Health Minister Patty Hajdu, meanwhile, said that even though Indian citizens accounted for 20 percent of all international arrivals, they represented over 50 percent of the positive tests conducted by Canadian airport officials. “By eliminating direct travel from these countries, public health experts will have the time to evaluate the ongoing epidemiology of that region and to reassess the situation,” she added.

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