Canada bans foreign nationals who recently travelled through southern Africa

Canada is restricting travel from southern Africa as a new coronavirus variant of concern triggers global alarm. Melissa Duggan on worldwide reaction to Omicron.

By Michael Ranger

The federal government introduced travel restrictions on Friday to help combat a worrying new COVID-19 “variant of concern” first detected in southern Africa.

The new measures put forth by federal officials are in effect immediately and will ban the entry of foreign nationals who have visited seven southern African nations in the last two weeks.

“We are acting quickly in order to protect the health and safety of Canadians,” said Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos.

The countries affected by the new ban include South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho and Eswatini. Anyone who has recently travelled to any of the nations is being asked to immediately self-isolate and get a COVID-19 test.

In addition, Canadians and permanent residents returning from the seven countries will be tested on arrival and will need to quarantine until they get result of negative test. If they receive a negative test they can finish their quarantine at home. They will have to be tested again on their eighth day of quarantine.

“To implement this we will be working with provinces and territories,” said Duclos. “We are in touch with them.”

Global Affairs Canada is issuing a travel advisory asking all Canadians to avoid travel to the region. Currently there are no direct flights from southern Africa to Canada.


Duclos and Transportation Minister Omar Alghabra introduced the new measures in a news conference with Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, on Friday afternoon.

“Nationally, the daily case counts have been slowly creeping up, so we need to maintain a high degree of caution to avoid a rapid acceleration,” said Tam during the briefing. “We know very little about this variant right now.”

The announcement of new measures came on the heels of a panel of scientists advising the World Health Organization (WHO) that the new variant be classified as a “variant of concern.” The recommendations followed a special session to discuss the variant.

It marks the first time in months that WHO has classified a COVID-19 variant as such. The delta variant, which has become the world’s most prevalent, is in the same category. The panel has named the new highly transmissible variant “omicron” under its Greek-letter system.

There were growing calls from politicians on Friday to secure the Canadian border — Tory leader Erin O’Toole asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to place a non-essential travel ban for countries with the new variant.

In a tweet, O’Toole says “Canadians can’t afford Trudeau to make the same mistake twice,” saying the government “failed to shut down travel from high-risk countries at the beginning of the pandemic.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford called for a ban of all flights from countries where the variant has been detected and says Canada also needs to re-implement testing for all passengers arriving in the country, regardless of where they come from.

Belgium reported the first confirmed case of the variant in Europe, cases have also been confirmed in Hong Kong. Its concern has caused stock markets to swoon and led the European Union to recommend a pause in flights to southern Africa.

The U.K. banned flights from several African nations and Dr. Anthony Fauci says the United States is looking into some form of a travel ban as well — though nothing has been decided yet.

“You’re prepared to do everything you need to do to protect the American public,” said Fauci. “But you want to make sure there is a basis for doing that.”

With files from the Associated Press

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