Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that his government will extend the ban on passenger flights from the UK until January 6 in the wake of the discovery of two new coronavirus strains in Britain.
The ban was initially set to expire in 72 hours, reports Xinhua news agency.
“In addition to the significant measures we already have in place, we acted quickly on additional travel restrictions in response to the situation in the UK,” Trudeau said at a press conference in Ottawa on Wednesday.
“Our government temporarily suspended all commercial and passenger flights from the UK to Canada.
“Today I can announce that we will extend this temporary suspension of passenger flights for another two weeks so we can prevent this new variant of Covid-19 from spreading to Canada,” he said.
Canada is one of many countries across the globe to impose a ban on UK flights due to the new variant of the virus, which is reported to be up to 70 per cent more transmissible than the previously dominant one which was discovered a week ago.
Enhanced screening has been reportedly put in place at all Canadian airports and at all points of entry for travellers who may be arriving from Britain indirectly.
Canada has not yet detected the variant in an analysis of samples already gathered in the country.
However, Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBC News he “would not be surprised” if the variant was already present in Canada and America.
Canadian Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said the Public Health Agency of Canada will be conducting more testing and genomic sequencing on known cases of the variant in the coming days.
“It wouldn’t surprise me that this variant is in many different countries,” Tam said, adding the new variant will likely eventually make its way to Canada.
Prior to Trudeau’s announcement, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Wednesday said that more areas of the East and South East of England will be put into Tier Four restrictions, the highest level, while revealing that two cases of another new variant of the novel coronavirus have been identified in Britain.