OTTAWA (AFP) - Canada suspended all passenger flights from India and Pakistan on Thursday (April 22) for 30 days, Transportation Minister Omar Alghabra announced, citing increased Covid-19 cases detected in travellers arriving from these countries.
"Given the higher number of cases of Covid-19 detected in air passengers arriving in Canada from India and Pakistan... I am suspending all commercial and private passenger flights arriving in Canada from Indian and Pakistan for 30 days," Alghabra told a news conference.
The measure will go into effect at 11.30pm Eastern Time Thursday (0330 GMT Friday).
It will not apply to cargo flights, Alghabra said, particularly to ensure the continued shipment of vaccines, personal protective equipment and other essential goods.
India, which is undergoing an alarming surge being blamed on a "double mutant" variant and super-spreader events, reported a single-day high of more than 300,000 new cases of Covid-19 on Thursday.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu said that overall only 1.8 percent of travellers to Canada have tested positive for coronavirus.
While India accounts for 20 percent of recent air travel to Canada, more than half of all positive tests at the border were from flights arriving from the country, she said, adding that "a similarly high level of cases... have also been linked to Pakistan."
Canada in December briefly suspended flights from Britain over concerns about outbreaks of a Covid variant.
Earlier on Thursday Parliament voted unanimously to urge the government to ban non-essential flights from Covid hotspots where variants have surged, including India and Brazil.
Alghabra said there are currently no scheduled flights between Canada and Brazil, but added that "we will not hesitate to ban travel to other countries if the science bears that out."