Canada Oppositions and provinces call on government to ban non-essential travel from African countries affected by new COVID-19 strain
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OTTAWA – Opposition parties and leaders of Canada’s largest provinces are calling on the federal government to ban all non-essential travel from African countries that are affected by a new COVID-19 variant that is raising alarms all over the world.
In a statement Friday morning, federal Conservative leader Erin O’Toole called for the Liberals to enact a ban on all non-essential travel to South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini, which are all countries that have confirmed presence of the variant first discovered in South Africa.
Conservatives call for travel ban on southern Africa as alarming new COVID-19 variant emerges
Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole is urging the federal government to ban all non-essential travel to and from southern Africa to stop a new — and possibly more infectious — COVID-19 variant from taking hold in Canada. Countries around the world already have restricted travel from some areas of the African continent in an effort to keep the newly identified coronavirus variant from crossing their borders. While many questions remain about how transmissible or virulent this new variant is, the U.K.
The COVID-19 strain, currently known as B.1.1.529, was first identified this week and is raising alarms around the world due to its extremely high level of transmission. The U.K. Health Security Agency has warned that the virus has a spike protein that differs significantly from the original coronavirus strain, raising questions about how well vaccines will fare.
“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. Canada’s Conservatives are calling on Justin Trudeau to secure Canada’s borders,” O’Toole said in a statement.
The Conservatives also demanded that the government put in place a mandatory 14-day quarantine and screening for all travellers going to or coming from countries affected by the new strain.
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As Canada confirms its first cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, scientists say banning travellers from southern African countries in an effort to curb its importation is wishful thinking that could do more harm than good. © Provided by The Canadian Press Public health officials in Ontario confirmed the country's first two cases of the variant in the Ottawa area on Sunday afternoon, noting they were found in people who had recently been in Nigeria.
The call was quickly echoed by Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, Quebec Premier François Legault and the Bloc Québécois.
“The Bloc Québécois is calling today on the government to quickly suspend commercial and private passenger flights from South Africa and neighboring countries in southern Africa, preventatively and temporarily, until we have more details on the transmissibility and severity of the B.1.1.529 variant,” Bloc MP and public safety spokesperson Kristina Michaud said in a statement.
The federal health minister and other government officials are expected to host a press briefing Friday afternoon to announce “measures to address variant B.1.1.529.”
There are no confirmed cases of the new strain in Canada yet, but a Hong Kong health department spokesperson told Reuters later Thursday that it was detected in a person who’d travelled from Canada who was quarantining in a hotel room adjacent to another traveler from South Africa who was found to have the variant and a poor quality mask.
Thursday evening, U.K. Health Secretary Sajid confirmed on Twitter that flights from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe would henceforth be banned until Sunday morning and all returning U.K. travelers would have to quarantine.
He also expressed concern about current vaccine efficacy against the new strain, considering that the shots were developed based on the original coronavirus.
“We must act with caution against this new variant. Early indications suggest it may be more transmissible and vaccines less effective,” Sajid wrote on Twitter.
More to come
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