Some ask why India and Pakistan, but not Brazil or elsewhere, subject to flight ban
MONTREAL -- Though many Canadians, including members of parliament, welcomed the new ban on flights from India and Pakistan, some in Montreal are calling it a heavy burden.
After all, the only flights taking place were for urgent purposes, they say—there was no recreational travel.
“I have a client for whom we're trying to get a visa for the past couple of days because her mother is ailing in India and she needs to go and attend [to] her and unfortunately, this came right in between,” said Maninder Singh of Intersky Travel.
Nor is it clear to everyone why those countries were singled out, based on flight data.
In the last two weeks, 35 flights from Delhi landed in Canada with at least one COVID case on board. But in that same period, 20 flights from the U.S., and 10 from France, also carried a COVID-19 case, and those countries are not included in the travel ban.
India has been rocked by a severe COVID-19 crisis, however, its worst so far in the pandemic.
The country broke a single-day global record of new cases on Thursday, reporting 314,000 cases within 24 hours, the worst count so far throughout the entire pandemic. Its health system is reportedly near collapse.
The flight ban was also especially motivated by the so-called “double mutant” variant, or B.1.617, which contains two separate mutations of the virus and is spreading quickly through India.
Quebec, Alberta, B.C. and Ontario have all reported cases of that variant, though Quebec and Alberta have confirmed only one case each. B.C. and Ontario each have around 40.
“It has been clear over the past couple of weeks that there is a disturbing pattern of a much higher caseload from India and Pakistan than from other countries,” said Prime Minister Trudeau this week.
The ban will be in place for at least 30 days. But Singh said Canada has already taken sufficient precautions with its strict testing requirements.
“The people who are boarding the flight from India, they have to have the negative COVID-19 test, and when they arrive here, mostly in Montreal or Toronto, they take a test first and they go straight away to the hotel,” said Singh.
There has also been no ban on flights from Brazil, which also has a dangerous variant circulating, others pointed out.
“Why [are they acting] particularly…. on India in this sense?” said Chandra Bhan Singh, the president of the India Canada Association of Montreal.
“They have hardly [found] only one or two [cases], and when the virus is coming from Brazil, they're coming from U.K. and from South Africa… why is the ban particular to India, you know?”
There was previously a ban on flights from the U.K., but only for about two and a half weeks around Christmas.
Some public health experts say that while they applaud the India and Pakistan flight ban, the real answer is to include other countries, too, as the virus continues to evolve and mutate in many other parts of the world.