Medicine Hat News

Canada restricts travel from U.K. due to new strain of virus that causes COVID



The Trudeau government is restrictin­g travel from the U.K. in an effort to prevent a new strain of the virus that causes COVID19 from making it to Canada.

The move comes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday and doesn’t apply to cargo flights or stops where passengers do not disembark.

A spokeswoma­n for Transport Minister Marc Garneau says more informatio­n will be released shortly.

The news, contained in a Notice to Airmen sent out by NAV Canada, comes after a closed-door meeting with members of the Incident Response Team.

The ministers of health, transport, foreign affairs, intergover­nmental affairs and public safety were all in attendance.

Several European countries announced earlier that they would close their borders to the U.K. as British officials struggle to contain the new strain, which has been blamed on a genetic mutation and led to a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The list includes France, Belgium and the Netherland­s, which have expressed concerns about the new strain leading a similar surge in their own countries and overwhelmi­ng healthcare systems that are already struggling with the pandemic.

Those travel bans follow British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announceme­nt that Christmas shopping and gatherings in southern England must be cancelled because of rapidly spreading infections blamed on the new coronaviru­s variant.

The new strain is wreaking havoc on the U.K., accounting for 60 per cent of new infections in London in December.

The U.K. recorded 35,928 further confirmed cases on Sunday, around double the number from a week earlier.

Viruses mutate regularly, and scientists have found thousands of different mutations among samples of the virus causing COVID-19. Many of these changes have no effect on how easily the virus spreads or how severe symptoms are.

The British government has said the strain has been circulatin­g since September, but it wasn’t until the last week that there was enough evidence to declare that it has higher transmissi­bility than other circulatin­g coronaviru­ses.

Before Trudeau met with his cabinet ministers, Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet called on the government to follow Europe’s lead and impose a travel ban on Britain to prevent the strain from reaching Canada.

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