Canada has banned passenger flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days in view of the surge in coronavirus cases in the region, AFP reported on Thursday. The ban came into effect from 9 am IST on Friday, according to Transportation Minister Omar Alghabra.
“This is a temporary measure, while we assess the evolving situation and determine appropriate measures going forward,” he said. Alghabra added that the ban will not apply to cargo flights to ensure the continued shipment of coronavirus vaccines, personal protective equipment and other essential goods.
India on Friday reported a record-breaking 3,32,730 new coronavirus cases, taking the total number of infections to 1,62,63,695 since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. This is also the highest ever single-day rise in cases reported by any country so far. This is the ninth consecutive day the country has recorded over 2 lakh coronavirus cases. For the first time since the pandemic broke out, 2,263 deaths were recorded on Friday. The toll rose to 1,86,920.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has recorded a total of 7,78,238 Covid-19 cases and the toll in the country stood at 16,698, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Canada Health Minister Patty Hajdu said that India accounts for 20% of recent flight passengers and over half of all the positive cases reported at the border are from Indian travellers. Similarly, she added, a high level of Covid-19 cases have been linked with Pakistan.
Hajdu added: “It is a significant volume, and given the epidemiological situation in India, it makes sense to pause travel from that region while our scientists and researchers [try] to better understand this variance of interest, to better understand where the trajectory of the cases in that region are going.”
Data from the country’s health ministry showed that 18 flights from Delhi and two from Lahore in the past two weeks had at least one passenger who was infected with the coronavirus.
Besides Canada, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, Oman and Singapore have also imposed travel restrictions on India, according to the Hindustan Times.
United Arab Emirates
On Thursday, UAE’s National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority and the General Civil Aviation Authority announced a temporary suspension of flights from India as well as the entry of transit passengers. The suspension would come into effect from Sunday and remain in place for 10 days.
People who transited through India in the last 14 days will also be stopped from entering the UAE, according to the announcement. The decision will be reviewed after 10 days.
The Australian government has not imposed a complete ban on travellers from India but reduced the number of flights from the country by 30%. Passengers from India and other high-risk countries will need to carry a negative Covid-19 test result taken at least 72 hours before boarding a flight to Australia.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the reduction in the number of flights will apply to government-organised repatriation flights and commercial flights. Authorities in Australia’s Northern Territory said changes would be made to the schedule of repatriation flights from India to Howard Springs, a municipality in the region. “All repatriation flights not yet booked but planned for the NT for May will now be deferred until June,” Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner said.
The decision was taken after the Howard Springs quarantine facility had to deal with the highest number of Covid-19 cases since it began handling repatriation flights last year. Most cases recorded were from arrivals from India.
Singapore on Thursday said that all long-term pass holders and short-term visitors with a history of travel to India within the last 14 days would not be allowed to enter the country from Saturday. The ban includes travellers transiting through India as well as those who had obtained prior approval for entry into Singapore, officials said.
“We know that this major move will have an impact on our construction, marine and process sectors,” Lawrence Wong, co-chair of Singapore’s Covid-19 multi-ministry task force, said at a news conference. “And many local SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] and contractors will be badly impacted.”
On Tuesday, the country’s health ministry had tightened measures for travellers from India. The passengers need to stay at home for an additional seven days after the mandatory 14-day quarantine at dedicated facilities.
Oman and other countries
On Wednesday, Oman banned the entry of travellers from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh from Saturday. The ban is also imposed on travellers who transited through any of these in the past 14 days, Oman’s Supreme Committee announced.
The United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and France have also imposed restrictions on travellers from India or issued advisories against travelling to India.