Quebec premier joins call for ban on travel from countries of concern over new COVID-19 variant
UPDATE: Canada has announced it will ban travellers from southern Africa as concerns mount over coronavirus variant
Our original story follows.
Quebec Premier François Legault has added his voice to those of his provincial colleagues and federal opposition parties who are calling on Ottawa to take the necessary measures to prevent the transmission of what the World Health Organization has classified as Omicron, a new COVID-19 variant first identified in South Africa.
"There are already countries that have started to block the entry of passengers coming from South Africa; I think we must do the same thing in Canada, quickly," he said at a press conference Friday in Montreal.
There are currently no direct flights between Canada and South Africa. Legault is, therefore, asking that the ban be applied to flights coming from or transiting through that country.
Earlier in the day, the Conservative Party of Canada and the Bloc Québécois called on the federal government to suspend passenger flights from South Africa and neighbouring countries in southern Africa until more details on the new variant are available.
"With reports of the spread of a new COVID-19 variant, we have a small window of opportunity to act, and we must move now," said Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole in a statement.
O'Toole also wants mandatory screening of all passengers and mandatory quarantine of all travellers from the affected countries, regardless of their vaccination status.
The Conservative Premiers of Alberta and Ontario, Jason Kenney and Doug Ford, have called on the federal government not to make the same "mistakes" it did at the beginning of the pandemic by allowing the Alpha and Delta variants into the country.
"I call on the federal government to follow Britain’s lead by banning travel from countries where this dangerous new Covid-19 variant is circulating. Canada must not repeat the mistake of its open-borders policy at the beginning of the global pandemic," Kenney wrote on Twitter.
"Until we can be certain that the vaccines are effective against this new variant, I am calling on the Government of Canada to follow other governments by immediately banning all flights and passengers from countries of concern," Ford added in a written statement.
After a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday morning, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante expressed confidence that the federal government would act to prevent the transmission of the new variant.
"What I understand is that Canada obviously wants to be proactive, wants to find solutions, look at what's happening in Europe. And I think they're going to take action based on their assessment of the situation," she said in a press scrum.
The Public Health Agency of Canada was scheduled to hold a news conference Friday morning, but it was postponed to 1 p.m.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Nov. 26, 2021.