The federal government is looking into flights arriving from India due to a massive surge of COVID-19 cases ravaging that country, Canada’s top public health doctor said Wednesday as at least one province urged Ottawa to tighten the border.
The government generally believes that limiting travel from specific countries can only go so far, said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer. India, she said, may present a special case.
“We will be doing further analysis because it’s an emerging situation, not just because of the variant of interest at this point but because they have unfortunately a very massive resurgence in that country,” she said. “We will be doing that risk assessment again, and using the data that we have now collected at the border to inform our next steps.”
Tam said Canada tends to take a broader approach, opting for “layers of protection” against travellers from all countries.
She pointed to pre-boarding tests for COVID-19, tests on arrival and government-mandated quarantines.
But calls are mounting for Ottawa to limit travel from India and other such hot spots.
Hospitals in India overwhelmed
India recorded nearly 300,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday alone, with 2,000 more deaths linked to the virus.
Hospitals in India are now overflowing and medical oxygen is in low supply. The effort to test and vaccinate residents is floundering and bodies are piling up at morgues and crematoriums.
But Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is still urging states to avoid lockdowns by creating micro-containment zones to control outbreaks instead.
According to the Canadian government, 35 flights from India with at least one case of COVID-19 aboard have arrived in Canada in the last two weeks.
Ontario’s government is “pleading” with Ottawa to ban travel from India.
The provincial government says cases of COVID-19 are pouring in through international borders.
Provincial House leader Paul Calandra said the federal Liberals must act now to prevent more variants from infiltrating Canada.
“I am pleading with the prime minister to secure our borders so that we can get control of these international variants,” he said.
Canada has limited travel from some countries over the course of the pandemic.
A spokesperson for Bill Blair, the minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, referred CBC News to an interview the minister did with CTV’s Power Play on Wednesday.
“I can confirm for you that we are very actively considering all and any additional measures that are or will be necessary to protect Canadians and I hope that we will be able to share more of that with you in the next 24 hours or so,” Blair said in the interview.
In late December, the government barred flights arriving from the U.K. in a bid to prevent a contagious variant of COVID 19 that first emerged there from entering this country.
The ban lasted until early January. Ultimately, the B.1.1.7 variant took hold in Canada.
As of Tuesday, the federal government was reporting 67,417 cases of COVID-19 involving that variant.