Move comes as London faces a severe lockdown over concerns of a new variant of the coronavirus
Suspension in effect for at least three days and covers all commercial and private flights
A fresh jolt rattled the country’s shaky aviation market Sunday as the federal government barred all flights from the United Kingdom to Canada for 72 hours. The move came in response to what British authorities called the discover of a fast-spreading variant of the COVID-19 virus.
“Our Government is committed to keeping Canadians and the transportation system safe and secure,” said Transport Minister Marc Garneau in a statement. “The notice we issued today, temporarily prohibiting flights to Canada from the United Kingdom, will reduce the public health risks to Canadians.”
The move came after an emergency meeting to discuss the new variant. The Netherlands, Belgium, and Italy were among a host of European countries imposing similar bans on flights from Britain.
The government said the ban would give it time to review the research on this new variant. It covers all commercial and private flights to Canada from the United Kingdom until Wednesday midnight.
Four flights arrived in Canada from the London area Sunday, according to data from Flight Aware.
Anyone who arrived Sunday from the U.K. faced additional screening and scrutiny of their quarantine plans. With the exception of some people arriving in Alberta, anyone arriving in Canada from overseas must quarantine for 14 days. People arriving in Calgary and staying in Alberta can choose a COVID test on arrival. If their test comes back negative, those people are exempt from quarantine in as little as two days. They must submit to a second test a few days later.
It’s another sign of just how tenuous the recovery can be from the ravages of the pandemic.
Air Canada, Westjet, and British Airways have been offering limited service between Canada and the United Kingdom.
“We are operating a reduced and dynamic schedule,” BA said in a Twitter post. “If your flight is cancelled, we will contact you, but please check the status of your flight before travelling to the airport.”
The Public Health Agency of Canada said it has not detected cases of the new variant in Canada. The agency said experts expected the virus to mutate. While the new strain seems to be more transmissible, to date, health officials say it does not seem to be more severe or react differently to antibodies or vaccines. However, health officials need more time to study the situation.
“It is essential to the health and safety of all Canadians that we continue to quickly adapt our border measures to respond to the evolving COVID-19 situation,” said Public Safety Minister Bill Blair. “The Canada Border Services Agency officers remain vigilant and are ready to implement these enhanced border measures to protect Canadians.”
Aerial images of London Monday morning showed deserted streets as the metropolis entered a severe lockdown. The British capital entered what the government called tier four restrictions. They essentially require everyone to stay at home with few exceptions.
“Residents in those areas must stay at home, apart from limited exemptions set out in law,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “People must work from home if they can, but may travel to work if this is not possible, for example in the construction and manufacturing sectors. People should not enter or leave tier 4 areas, and tier 4 residents must not stay overnight away from home.”
Londoners are not permitted to travel abroad, with limited exceptions.
While non-stop flights from the United Kingdom to Canada are cancelled for the first part of the week, it was not immediately clear how long the ban might last.
“We do not have any information about the date of resumption of the flights between the UK and Canada,” said Air Canada in response to a passenger inquiry. “The flight on Wednesday will be cancelled.”
It was also not clear how the ban might affect passengers connecting through the United States. One Twitter user reported that his mother’s non-stop from London to Vancouver was cancelled Monday. Air Canada instead rebooked her on a connecting flight through San Francisco.
The airline said it would look into the matter.
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