Canada Travel rules eased for Canadians stranded in South Africa, but criticism of broader ban endures
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.
Heading home for the holidays — or just getting back to Canada after a trip — now seems possible once again after a temporary exemption to travel restrictions was announced on Saturday.
But the wider travel ban policy recently imposed by the Canadian government is still being criticized as unscientific by leaders of countries in southern Africa.
The federal government announced Saturday evening it would tweak newly implemented restrictions on travel from South Africa, allowing Canadians to return home if they have a negative molecular test taken within two days of departure and leave on flights transiting through Frankfurt on or before Dec. 13.
Canada clamps down on Omicron COVID-19 variant. Experts say it’s likely ‘already here’
Omicron, also known as B.1.1.529 was designated by the World Health Organization as a variant of concern earlier Friday after reports of the virus' spread across South Africa.Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced Friday afternoon that the Canadian government would be introducing a total of five measures to limit the spread of the new variant — including entry to foreign nationals who’ve travelled through a handful of African countries in the past 14 days.
The shift comes after many Canadians — including travellers like theor Canadians — spoke out about the clashing restrictions that they say made it effectively impossible to return home.
Charl Coetzee, a Canadian who was stuck in South Africa, said he was thankful the government had moved to provide an exemption for people like him but that it was the government's restrictions that had infringed on his ability to return home.
"By Friday last week, it was actually feeling like our government had abandoned its citizens," Coetzee said in an interview onon Sunday.
Coetzee told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton that he had arrived in South Africa just hours before South African researchers announced they had discovered the omicron variant, and he wasn't able to get out of the country before travel restrictions were imposed around the world.
Ottawa working to get women’s field hockey team home from South Africa after Omicron travel ban
The Canadian junior women's field hockey team has been stranded in South Africa due to new travel restrictions targeting the Omicron variant.Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge called the team on Saturday to offer reassurance no stone is being left unturned, says Jenn Beagan, coach of the Field Hockey Canada junior women's national team.
"I never imagined that this present government could impose requirements on return travel ... that effectively made it impossible to return," he said.
Coetzee says he had booked five different flights to try to get out of the country, and he co-ordinated in a WhatsApp group with about 250 other Canadians also facing challenges returning home.
Asked about a similar situation in an interview on CBC's The House that aired prior to when the exemption was announced on Saturday, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said the measures were meant to protect Canadians.
"I'd acknowledge that we're at a moment where there will be some challenges, but we put in place public health measures because of the variant of concern. And that does include placing some travel restrictions on those transiting from or through a certain number of listed countries," he told host Chris Hall.
COVID live updates: Opposition blasts Legault for mixed messages on Christmas gatherings
Updated throughout the day on Tuesday, Nov. 30. Questions/comments: firstname.lastname@example.org Top updates Live: Federal officials provide update on Canada’s response to Omicron variant Video: Under fire from opposition, Legault says his government’s cooperating with coroner’s CHSLD inquiry BioNTech CEO says vaccine likely to protect against severe COVID from Omicron FAQ: What we know so far about the Omicron variant ‘We will listen to public health’ on Christmas gatherings, Legault says People 60+ should avoid international travel due to Omicron threat, WHO says PQ, Liberals accuse Legault government of obstructing CHSLD inquiry Opposition blasts Legault for mixed message
Video: President of Malawi asks international community to lift travel bans on South Africa (cbc.ca)
Canadians returning from South Africa will still need to abide by.
Travel measures 'unscientific': Malawi president
While the temporary exemption has helped some Canadians in South Africa, strict rules still bar non-Canadians from entering Canada if they've travelled through any of 10 named countries, mostly in southern Africa, over the preceding two weeks.
The rules have been criticized by southern African leaders, who have argued the region is being unfairly singled out, given that omicron cases have been detected in countries around the world.
"We have come out in total rejection of these bans that have been imposed on southern Africa, and we are insisting that they be lifted," South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said earlier this week.
"We understand the need for nations to protect their citizens. But the World Health Organization has gone ahead to state that travel bans are not necessarily the solution," Lazarus Chakwera, president of Malawi, told Barton on Sunday.
Canadians in South Africa face cancelled flights, uncertainty as they try to return
MONTREAL — Megan Tanya Hodgkinson was visiting relatives in South Africa last week when Canada imposed travel restrictions on several African countries after scientists detected a new variant of the novel coronavirus. Hodgkinson, who was in Durban to see her sick mother, planned to return home with some of her in-laws to celebrate Christmas in Ontario. Now, her in-laws' visit has been cancelled and she isn't sure how she'll get home.
The travel ban "looks unfair to us. It looks unscientific and it looks unilateral," he said.
Chakwera said he was hoping to see more vaccine contributions from developed countries and multilateral co-operation in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The travel bans run counter to that sort of co-operation, he argued.
"We are encouraged to face this pandemic together, and it was an isolation of southern Africa, even though it had just been southern Africa that had identified this strain. And so one wonders why do we [act from] emotion rather than science?" he said.
that travel bans are not effective at slowing the spread of the virus and that it's risky to punish countries for being transparent when monitoring uncovers a new variant.
Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos told Barton he sympathized with the difficulty the 10 countries were facing, but the measures were necessary to protect Canadians.
"We know that the situation is very harsh and a lot of uncertainty and stress in most countries is certainly in the 10 countries that we have identified," he said.
"That was the right thing to do. We don't focus on people, on any citizenship, we focus on those that have travelled through a number of countries, the 10 that we have identified."
Cases of the omicron variant have been identified in Canada, as well as in many other countries around the world, and some are thought to predate the first identification of the virus in South Africa.
You can watch full episodes of Rosemary Barton Live on.
Ottawa extends exemption for Canadian travellers stranded in South Africa .
OTTAWA — The federal government is extending, and slightly expanding, a travel exemption for Canadians trying to return home from South Africa. Earlier this month, the government lifted a requirement for Canadian travellers from South Africa to have a negative COVID-19 molecular test result in a third country before coming to Canada. An update on the federal government's website says the exemption will remain in place until at least Jan. 7. In addition, beginning Tuesday, the exemption will apply to eligible travellers on all indirect flights departing South Africa to Canada, regardless of the airline.