Canada joined several European nations in halting flights from the U.K. in an effort to prevent a new, more contagious strain of the coronavirus from spreading to this country.
All commercial, private and charter flights transporting passengers from the U.K. will be suspended indefinitely as of midnight tonight. The restriction doesn’t apply to cargo flights, aircraft landing for safety reasons or flights that land for technical stops where no passengers disembark.
According to a Health Canada notice, genetic variation of viruses such as the one that causes COVID-19 is to be expected and have been previously observed in parts of the world this year. While early data suggest that the United Kingdomvariant may be more transmissible, to date there is no evidence that the mutations have any impact on symptom severity, antibody response or vaccine efficacy.
Evidence is, however, limited at this time and more research is needed in Canada and around the world. Given the high number of cases of a variant COVID-19 virus observed in some areas in the United Kingdom, the decision has been made to suspend entry into Canada of all commercial and private passenger flights from the United Kingdom for 72 hours, effective midnight tonight.
The restriction will be in place for 72 hours while officials assess the situation and determine appropriate measures going forward, according to a government spokesperson speaking on background.
According to the CBC, at least 10 nonstop flights departing from London airports arrived in Toronto, four in Montreal, and two in Vancouver over the past week. Some of those flights continued on to other destinations, including Calgary and Edmonton.
While no cases linked to this new strain have been identified in Canada, work continues to identify if this variant is present or has been previously observed in Canada. The Canadian and global medical, public health and research community are actively evaluating mutations to better understand the potential implications in terms of transmission, clinical presentation, and vaccine development.