Canada has announced a new measure to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. UPDATE: The travel restriction has been extended until January 6, 2021.
Canada is banning all flights arriving from the United Kingdom beginning December 20, 2020 at midnight in an enhanced effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Update on December 23, 2020: Canada has since extended this travel suspension until January 6, 2021.
Original story continues below:
This new measure was announced on Twitter by several senior Canadian government officials including prime minister Justin Trudeau and Bill Blair, the minister of public safety.
Blair said the travel restrictions will be in place for at least 72 hours, after which Canada will re-evaluate this policy. Blair also noted the policy means flights from the UK to Canada will be cancelled over the next three days.
Explaining the rationale for the policy, Blair tweeted “We are taking this important action to protect Canadians and to keep our communities safe. These measures have been imposed following advice from public health officials. The restrictions will initially be in place for 72 hrs, after which time they could be extended or enhanced.”
In addition, travellers who arrived from the UK today were subject to enhanced secondary screenings.
In a press release, the Canadian government said the decision to suspend travel from the UK is due to the reported spread of a new strain of the coronavirus in the United Kingdom. Little is known about the strain, but the press release noted that the Canadian government and health experts around the world are studying the new strain to better understand its implications.
The Canadian government has invested $40 million to support the Canadian COVID-19 Genomics Network to help study genetic variations of COVID as it evolves.
The new travel restrictions are in addition to the ones Canada has had in place since March.
While some new immigrants, foreign workers, international students, and family members are exempt from the restrictions, most other foreign nationals have been unable to travel to Canada over this period.
With few exceptions, those entering Canada are subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Canada initially saw its new COVID-19 cases peak in early May before successfully containing the virus throughout the summer. Case counts have surged since September and Canada has recently recorded up to 7,000 new cases per day, compared with the spring time peak of 2,760 cases on May 3rd.
Last week, Canada began the largest vaccination campaign in its history with the rollout of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. So far Canada expects to receive at least four million doses of this vaccine by the end of March 2021 which will be enough to vaccinate two million people. In addition, Health Canada is currently in the process of reviewing other vaccine candidates for approval.