By Eric Stober, Global News | May 13, 2021
Air Canada has extended the flight ban from India to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but the federal government has not announced the same.
“We have further extended the suspension of our flights from India until June 22,” Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick said in a statement.
“We did this in anticipation of the existing suspension on flights between the two countries being extended.”
The flight ban from India and Pakistan was originally announced by the federal government April 22 and was set for 30 days. Air Canada does not operate flights to or from Pakistan.
Ministry of Transportation spokesperson Allison St. Jean said in a statement that the ministry is monitoring the COVID-19 situation in India and Pakistan closely and will determine next steps based on “evidence and advice of public health experts.” She did not confirm whether the federal government will extend its ban.
“Any recent decisions announced by Air Canada are operational and made on their own accord,” St. Jean said.
COVID-19: India struggles to vaccinate citizens amid supply shortage
The ban was initially set to protect Canada from the B.1.617 COVID-19 variant spreading rapidly in India.
Canada has not identified the variant as a “variant of concern” (VOC) yet but instead as a “variant of interest” — although the U.K. and the World Health Organization recently labelled it a VOC.
Canada’s ban does not affect cargo flights and only applies to direct flights. Travellers from India can still enter the country indirectly, but they must present a negative COVID-19 test before departing for Canada.
The India variant has already been detected in B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.
India is still grappling with the recent COVID-19 outbreak. Deaths in the country from the virus recently passed a quarter million, while nearly 400,000 new cases are reported daily.
At the time the federal government first announced the ban, half of air travellers arriving in Canada that had tested positive for COVID-19 had come from India, even though only one-fifth of flights were from the country, according to Health Minister Patty Hajdu.
However, since the ban, it has been revealed that 80 per cent of COVID-19 cases from all Canadian air travel came from domestic flights, according to federal data.
There are currently no federal bans on domestic flight travel.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for additional travel measures, such as a mandatory quarantine from entering the country via land.
— With files from Reuters, David Lao, Saba Aziz, Rachel Gilmore and Amanda Connelly