In a statement, the Government of Canada indicated that it is closely monitoring the genetic variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 identified in the United Kingdom and is working with international partners, including the World Health Organization, to better understand this variant and its impacts.
Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau convened a meeting of the Incident Response Group to discuss the new variant of COVID-19 identified in the United Kingdom. Minister of Health Patty Hajdu, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair, Minister of Transport Marc Garneau, President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc, and Minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne participated in the meeting.
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 Kingdom variant 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.
However, the statement said that 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 Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, said: “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. The Canada Border Services Agency officers remain vigilant and are ready to implement these enhanced border measures to protect Canadians.”
And the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport stated that: “Our Government is committed to keeping Canadians and the transportation system safe and secure. The notice we issued today, temporarily prohibiting flights to Canada from the United Kingdom, will reduce the public health risks to Canadians.”
Canada has had robust travel restrictions and border measures in place since March 2020, including mandatory quarantine measures, which require travellers to quarantine or isolate for 14 days immediately upon entry to Canada. Those measures remain in place.
Additionally, passengers who arrived in Canada today from the United Kingdom are now subject to secondary screening and enhanced measures, including increased scrutiny of quarantine plans. Passengers who arrived recently from the United Kingdom will also receive additional direction from the Government of Canada.