How Canada changed its position on pandemic travel bans

How Canada changed its position on pandemic travel bans
© Chris Young/The Canadian Press Passengers check in at Toronto’s Pearson Airport on Friday, Oct. 29, 2021.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa chose the perfect venue Tuesday to make the argument that a travel ban imposed on his country is both “unscientific” and “discriminatory.”

He made the remarks — which he tweeted out to the world — on board a government jet about to depart for a tour of Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Senegal.

“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,” said Ramaphosa.

“We have advanced as a world to a point where we now know that when people travel they should be tested, like I was tested last night, and I’m happy to be tested when I arrive again. We’ve got the tools, we’ve got the means to be able to deal with this.”

But even African solidarity was strained by the news of the omicron variant, as Rwanda joined the list of countries that have temporarily banned travelers from southern Africa.

Canada was quick to join that list, prompting complaints from Canadians with South African ties. On Tuesday, it added Nigeria, Malawi and Egypt to the roster of countries it has placed under travel restrictions.

The U.S., U.K. and EU countries also placed eight African countries under a travel ban — even as some of their leaders congratulated South Africa for its “rapid genomic sequencing and leadership in transparently sharing scientific data”.

G7 health ministers also issued a joint statement that “praised the exemplary work of South Africa in both detecting the variant and alerting others to it.” But all seven countries imposed measures that limit the ability of South Africans and others from the region to move around the world.

The measures will undermine the tourism industry in the region. While tourism makes up only 3 per cent of South Africa’s GDP, it accounts for more than 10 per cent of national income for Egypt, Botswana and Namibia.

Going from opposing bans to imposing them

The Trudeau government — following the lead of the World Health Organization — publicly opposed travel bans at the beginning of the pandemic. Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam herself denounced the idea of stopping travellers at the time.

“The WHO advises against any kind of travel and trade restrictions, saying that they are inappropriate and could actually cause more harm than good in terms of our global effort to contain,” Tam cautioned on Feb. 3, 2020.

Canadians think we can stop this at the border,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu added on March 13, 2020. “But what we see is a global pandemic, which means that border measures are highly ineffective and, in some cases, can create harm.”

How Canada changed its position on pandemic travel bans
© Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images People scan a QR code to register before getting a COVID-19 coronavirus test in Beijing on November 4, 2021.

But as public anger mounted over China’s lack of transparency in the early stages of the pandemic, so did suspicions about the WHO’s advice — a global health agency accused by some in the West of being too much under Beijing’s influence.

China itself loudly opposed travel bans back when it was seen as the epicentre of the pandemic. Beijing has since imposed one of the strictest entry policies in the world — cancelling all visas issued prior to March 28, 2020 and refusing to issue new ones except in very limited cases.

Canada has also changed its attitude.

Experts remain unconvinced

The B.1.1.7 or Kent (U.K.) variant, which was first sequenced in September 2020 and took off in the U.K. population as that year came to an end, weakened the Trudeau government’s resolve.

By late December 2020, ten countries in all five continents were reporting at least 20 cases of the variant that would later come to be known as alpha. On December 23, Canada ordered a halt to all flights from the U.K.

Canada has acted faster in response to the omicron variant, imposing a ban on seven southern African countries within days of the first news reports about the variant.

How Canada changed its position on pandemic travel bans
© Peter Byrne/Associated Press A woman sitting on a bus wears a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Liverpool, England on Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021.

While politicians have reversed course on travel bans, many experts remain unconvinced of their usefulness — for two main reasons.

The first is a belief that travel bans move too slowly to stop variants. Omicron has been detected already in travel-related cases from Hong Kong to Canada and there is growing evidence of community transmission in EnglandScotland and Portugal.

But stopping the international spread of a new variant is not an all-or-nothing effort. Even though the variant has escaped southern Africa, stopping flights from the region could still reduce the number of new lines of transmission being seeded abroad. That could buy local health authorities more time to test, trace and contain.

‘Punishing’ countries for virus vigilance

The second argument against travel bans is the most compelling, said epidemiologist Dr Prabhat Jha of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

“We need to stop running from one crisis to another,” he told CBC News.

“You don’t want to be in the position of punishing South Africa for sharing evidence. We want countries to do more sequencing and share that information freely, without fear that if they report it, they’re going to get a travel ban.”

Omicron is the second variant of concern to be detected by South African health authorities. That doesn’t mean either variant emerged in South Africa. It could just be the result of South Africa having the best disease surveillance and reporting system in sub-Saharan Africa.

How Canada changed its position on pandemic travel bans
© Jerome Delay/Associated Press Pupils wearing masks play study at the Kgololo Academy in Johannesburg’s Alexandra township Tuesday Nov. 30, 2021.

But praise is of little use to South Africans who now must bear the economic cost of being declared persona non grata among nations.

WHO’s Africa director Matshidiso Moeti issued a statement supporting South Africa. “With the Omicron variant now detected in several regions of the world,” she said, “putting in place travel bans that target Africa attacks global solidarity.”

Some countries agreed. Colombia’s health minister tweeted that his country would fight the omicron variant with vaccination, testing and tracing, and called for “no discrimination against nations that invest in vigilance and reporting.”

Bans can work — for a while

Adam St. John is co-founder of Sitata Inc., a global health surveillance company that first notified its subscribers of the emergence of a new respiratory virus on January 2, 2020, when COVID-19 was still just a mysterious local outbreak in one part of China.

St. John was in Hong Kong when the pandemic began; he spent part of it in Germany and is now in the U.K.

“There’s definitely differences in how countries react,” he said. “In Hong Kong, when there were only about ten cases, they were already taking my temperature and disinfecting elevator buttons and generally taking things very seriously. A big part of that was their previous experience with SARS.

“I think Australia and New Zealand certainly took a page from their book. They’ve been very restrictive throughout the whole period, and to be honest, a lot of that behaviour works.”

How Canada changed its position on pandemic travel bans
© Mark Baker/Associated Press Passengers arrive early morning at Sydney Airport, Monday, Nov. 29, 2021.

St. John said no nation can really freeze out the outside world.

“Modern economies can’t cope with that,” he said. “That’s why you see this tightening and loosening of restrictions. There’s a balance. Certainly we don’t want to punish other nations for reporting, because that could make the situation a whole lot worse.” 

A study in the journal Science that looked at bans in the earliest stages of the pandemic found that “the travel quarantine introduced in Wuhan on 23 January 2020 only delayed epidemic progression by 3 to 5 days within China, but international travel restrictions did help to slow spread elsewhere in the world until mid-February.”

The study concluded that a travel ban can help a country when it’s combined with strong internal measures, but not when it’s seen as a substitute for domestic responses.

Buying time

The arrival of the omicron variant has given new urgency for calls for more equitable distribution of vaccines worldwide. 

“There’s only one way out of this pandemic, and that’s worldwide vaccination,” said Dr. Jha.

“Politicians try to grab the easiest solutions, even the ones that may not be so effective, and sometimes at the expense of ignoring what would work. And what would work is a global strategy to make sure we have very few unvaccinated people.

“They’re the ones, be they in Florida or be they in South Africa, that are the variant factories. This is where the variants are occurring.”

St. John said that travel bans have failed if they’re judged by their effectiveness in keeping variants out permanently. But bans can slow the entry of new variants into a country, he said, which can give local health authorities more time to understand the threat and prepare for it.

“They are buying time,” he said. “They don’t know what’s in store with a new strain. The reactions by these nations are somewhat warranted as they figure out the response.”

Restrictions around the world

Canada has imposed a ban on the entry of foreign travellers who have been in one of ten African countries in the past 14 days. The countries are: South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), Egypt, Nigeria and Malawi.

Canadian citizens and permanent residents arriving here from these countries will be required to obtain a negative PCR test and undergo a 14-day quarantine, including an arrival test and a Day 8 test. The measures are to stay in place until January 31, 2022. 

U.S. President Joe Biden recently issued a presidential proclamation that imposes a ban similar to Canada’s on the same seven nations, plus Malawi. It took effect Tuesday morning and runs for 30 days.

The United Kingdom’s flight ban affects the same countries targeted by Canada’s ban, plus Angola and Zambia but not including Egypt.

How Canada changed its position on pandemic travel bans
© Thanassis Stavrakis/Associated Press A woman adjusts her face mask as she passes a shop front window decorated for Christmas in Athens, Greece, Monday, Nov. 29, 2021.

The European Union said that it will not restrict the free movement of EU citizens between member states and did move to stop flights between Europe and southern Africa. Some EU countries, such as Poland, introduced their own restrictions. Others, including Germany, hinted they might do so shortly.

After keeping the country open to foreign travelers during the Olympics and being blamed for a subsequent spike in COVID cases, Japanese authorities wasted no time in responding to omicron with a complete ban on the entry of foreigners, including foreign students.

Israel also opted for extreme measures after two cases of omicron were confirmed there. As of Sunday, Israel has a ban on the entry of foreigners. The move comes just one month after Israel re-opened its borders.

Several Caribbean nations, including Jamaica and Trinidad, banned travel from the eight African nations identified in President Biden’s decree.

How Canada changed its position on pandemic travel bans
© Joan Mateu Parra/Associated Press A passenger looks out through a window at the Barcelona airport in Spain on Monday, Nov. 29, 2021.

The Philippines was planning to open itself again to tourism on December 1, allowing vaccinated foreigners to enter the country without undergoing quarantine. That re-opening has now been postponed.

Spain’s approach differs from that of some European countries: it permits travelers from southern Africa to enter the country but subjects them to a 10-day quarantine. Spain also implemented a month-long ban on the entry of all unvaccinated travelers from the U.K., beginning December 1. Previously, Spain had permitted unvaccinated British visitors to show proof of a negative PCR test.

Australia banned the entry of foreigners who’ve recently been in any of eight African countries. It also delayed a partial re-opening, scheduled for December 1, that would have permitted the entry of qualified and vaccinated foreign workers and students without the need for special travel exemptions. That has now been postponed to December 15.

Several other countries have barred the entry of people who have been in southern Africa recently. They include Brazil, New Zealand, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

News Related


Mind-blowing superyacht with its own WATERFALL and pool aquarium revealed in new designs

A YACHT influencer has revealed stunning designs for a superyacht that would fit right in on a billionaire's wish list. Denis Suka, a.k.a. The Yacht Mogul, came up with the ... Read more »

When rapid antigen test shortage is tipped to end

As millions of Australian concession card holders today become eligible for free rapid antigen tests (RATs), one expert has warned the nation does not have enough stock to meet demand. ... Read more »

Celebrities with the most kids revealed: from Clint Eastwood and Eddie Murphy to Nick Cannon and Angelina Jolie

MOST of us know celebrities for their movie characters, singing careers, or appearances on television. But the truth is, many of these stars have one role that trumps all others: ... Read more »

Kambah man charged with murder after older man with head injuries found dead

© Provided by ABC NEWS A 49-year-old suspect is expected to face court today. (ABC News: Ian Cutmore) A Canberra man has been charged with murder after an older man ... Read more »

O'Connor's class shines through as Blackrock stun Railway Union

HANNAH O’CONNOR’S 11-point kicking haul proved crucial as Blackrock College won 16-13 to end Railway Union’s 10-match unbeaten run in the Energia Women’s All-Ireland League. O’Connor converted Meabh Deely’s 79th-minute ... Read more »

Stacey Solomon surprises Joe Swash with room makeover for his birthday

Stacey Solomon surprised her fiancé Joe Swash with a room makeover following his 40th birthday this week.  The TV personality, 32, took to Instagram on Sunday to showcase the transformation of ... Read more »

11-year-old twins found dead in Upper Bukit Timah playground, Gurkha alerted, father arrested

© The Independent Singapore Photo: FB screengrab/Complaint Singapore Singapore – The bodies of two children were found near a playground in Upper Bukit Timah on Friday night (Jan 21). The ... Read more »

WATCH: Karan Johar asks Farah Khan why she's ‘scaring COVID' and the reason will leave you in splits

© Provided by Pinkvilla Karan Johar and Farah Khan are back at it again with their Instagram banter. Both the celebrities share a close bond with each other and their ... Read more »

How do Gem microtransactions work in Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel?

© Provided by Dot Esports Live-service titles tend to live or die depending on how the developers handle microtransactions, especially based on if they implement those transactions with a balance ... Read more »

PICS: Vidyut Jammwal & ladylove Nandita Mahtani make a stylish couple as they get papped post dinner date

Actor Vidyut Jammwal broke several hearts after he proposed to his girlfriend and fashion designer Nandita Mahtani. The couple got engaged last year after dating for a few years. Today, ... Read more »

Vafaei first Iranian to win ranking title

© Getty Images Vafaei had reached three rankings tournament semi-finals before his victory on Sunday Hossein Vafaei became the first Iranian player to win a ranking title, beating Mark Williams ... Read more »

COVID policies hurt kids and other commentary

Fourth grade students wearing masks at Washington Elementary School in Lynwood, California on January 12, 2022. AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez Education beat: COVID Policies Hurt Kids Since COVID’s start, “it ... Read more »

Jamie Oliver employs ‘cultural appropriation specialists' so recipes avoid woke brigade backlash

JAMIE Oliver employs “cultural appropriation specialists” to make sure his recipes avoid a woke brigade backlash. The TV chef’s dishes are all vetted, with times having changed so much he ... Read more »

Inside the LA pad on sale by Selling Sunset agency boasting outdoor tub, fireplaces, and bar – it can be yours for $9M

IF YOU'RE missing Selling Sunset and in need of some property porn, look no further than this luxurious LA pad, listed by The Oppenheim Group's very own Jason Oppenheim. The ... Read more »

January 6 committee has already spoken to former Trump Attorney General Bill Barr, chairman says

© AP Photo/Evan Vucci President Donald Trump stands with Attorney General William Barr during the 38th Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service at the U.S. Capitol, Wednesday, May 15, 2019, ... Read more »

Headaches intensify for Democrats in Florida

© Greg Nash/The Hill Headaches intensify for Democrats in Florida The headaches are intensifying for Florida Democrats as retirements, candidate recruitment challenges and a burgeoning redistricting fight add to the ... Read more »

Online safety bill ‘a missed opportunity’ to prevent child abuse, MPs warn

© Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA The sharing of some of the most insidious images of child abuse will not be prevented by a new government bill that ... Read more »

Gay's 30-yard FG lifts Rams over Brady, Buccaneers 30-27

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Matthew Stafford threw for 366 yards and two touchdowns and Matt Gay’s 30-yard field goal as time expired lifted the Los Angeles Rams to a 30-27 ... Read more »

Exclusive-Iran nuclear agreement unlikely without release of U.S. prisoners -Malley

© Reuters/FRANCOIS MURPHY U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley and Barry Rosen, in Vienna By Francois Murphy and Arshad Mohammed VIENNA (Reuters) – The United States is unlikely to ... Read more »

Two arrests after objects thrown at Chelsea's Rudiger

© Associated Press Antonio Rudiger removed objects from the pitch aimed at him from the away end Two men have been arrested after objects were thrown at Chelsea defender Antonio ... Read more »

NBA All-Star Moment of the Night: Celtics' Jayson Tatum emerges from slump with 51-point outburst

On Sunday, Celtics forward Jayson Tatum emerged from an abysmal slump in legendary fashion. In an afternoon win over the Wizards, Tatum erupted for 51 points, shooting 18-for-28 from the ... Read more »

Bills-Chiefs showdown a showcase for Giants' head coach candidates

A final decision wasn’t going to be made before the end of business Sunday night. The Giants may have their minds swayed about whom they’ll hire as their next head ... Read more »

The man in charge at the White House isn't Joe Biden

President Joe Biden relies on more outside advisors instead of taking charge with his decision-making skills. Getty Images Who, really, is in charge at the White House? It sure doesn’t ... Read more »

PAC with ties to Adams raises over $1M from real estate, nightlife and GOP figures

© Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Brooklyn Academy of Music New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Jan. 17, 2022 in New York City. A political action committee tied to Mayor ... Read more »

Sarah Palin's defamation case against New York Times heads to trial

© (Associated Press photo/Brynn Anderson, File) Sarah Palin’s defamation case against New York Times heads to trial The trial will begin this week in former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s (R) ... Read more »

NFL bad beat: Rams backers survive, but under bettors shocked they lost

A lot had to go wrong for under bettors in the Los Angeles Rams-Tampa Bay Buccaneers divisional round game.  A lot went wrong in the final few minutes.  The Rams ... Read more »

Tom Brady Retirement Watch Is On After Bucs' Playoff Loss to Rams

© Provided by Sports Illustrated Brady will reportedly take some time to decide whether he will play football again. View the original article to see embedded media. With the Buccaneers ... Read more »

Zii Jia usah terlalu ikut emosi

© Provided by Sinar Harian JAGUH perseorangan negara, Lee Zii Jia disaran kembali ke pangkuan Persatuan Badminton Malaysia (BAM) demi menjamin masa depan kariernya. Bekas Pengarah Prestasi Tinggi BAM, Datuk ... Read more »

US orders families of embassy staff to leave Ukraine

© Getty Images Non-essential embassy staff in Kyiv have been given permission to leave under new measures The US has ordered the relatives of its embassy staff in Ukraine to ... Read more »

'Itu tanda kelemahan pengurusan Harimau Malaya'

© Provided by Sinar Harian KETIDAKHARMONIAN dalam kalangan pemain yang didakwa antara punca Harimau Malaya gagal menyerlah pada saingan Piala Suzuki AFF 2020 di Singapura bulan lalu menggambarkan kelemahan pihak ... Read more »

Aljaz Skorjanec and Tilly Ramsay bust moves outside a bar at 3am

The stars of the Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour partied at a Birmingham bar until 3am on Sunday morning. Judge Craig Revel Horwood, in a black Hummel tracksuit, embraced Rose ... Read more »

Blind man who rescued 5 after Oklahoma City bombing dies

© ASSOCIATED PRESS Obit Raymond Washburn – ASSOCIATED PRESS Raymond Washburn, a blind man who was credited with helping rescue five people from the rubble of the Alfred P. Murrah ... Read more »

TV robot Metal Mickey saved from scrapheap by The Sun

CHILDREN’S TV robot Metal Mickey has been saved from the scrapheap by The Sun. The 1980s favourite had been left to rust after creator Johnny Edward died last year — ... Read more »

Evil Romanian sex traffickers are ‘grooming girls as young as 10 at school & forcing them into prostitution in UK'

EVIL Romanian sex traffickers are grooming girls in schools and forcing them into prostitution in the UK, a new documentary has claimed. Kids as young as 10 are being targeted ... Read more »

Amanda Holden shares rare picture of lookalike daughter Hollie as she turns 10

AMANDA Holden paid tribute to her daughter Hollie as she turned 10 years old. The Britain's Got Talent star wowed fans with snaps of adorable Hollie on her birthday on ... Read more »

Hochul to convene illegal guns task force in wake of NYPD cop killing

Hochul announced that the Interstate Task Force on Illegal Guns will convene law-enforcement officials to stop gun trafficking. Kevin P. Coughlin/Gov Kathy Hochul Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Sunday that her ... Read more »

After clip goes viral, Punjab cops book Sidhu aide for hate speech

© Provided by The Times of India PATIALA: A day after controversy intensified about a viral video of former IPS officer Mohammad Mustafa over his alleged remarks on a community ... Read more »

Punjab school scorecard: AAP, Congress fight over ‘best' model

© Provided by The Indian Express In a recent interview, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convener and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal claimed that a Dalit voter in Punjab had come ... Read more »

ICSI elects new president, vice-president for 2022

© Provided by The Indian Express The Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ISCI) has elected Devendra V. Deshpande as president and Manish Gupta as vice-president for 2022. A fellow ... Read more »

This zero-emission electric cabin motorbike redefines sustainability on city roads

© Provided by Singapore Business Review The KBi Vigorous combines high performance, speed, and safety in the comfort of a fully covered vehicle, in one compact package.  Supported by a ... Read more »
On you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic