Last Updated on December 25, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau extended a ban on flights from the United Kingdom this week – only days before the traditionally-heavy holiday travel season – in a bid to stop a new variant of Covid-19 from making its way to Canada.

“To prevent the new variant of Covid-19 from spreading in Canada, we’re extending the temporary suspension of passenger flights from the UK for another two weeks, until Jan. 6,” the Canadian prime minister tweeted two days before Christmas. 

“We’ll continue to monitor the situation and do whatever it takes to keep you safe,” wrote Trudeau.

Canada imposed the ban on flights from the UK after a new form of coronavirus which has spawned the global pandemic was discovered there. The virulence of the new strain of the virus is as yet unknown but public safety officials in Canada are choosing to err on the side of caution. 

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Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and the prime minister first announced a three-day ban on UK flights which took effect on Dec. 20 at midnight.

“While we know this is difficult for Canadians and their families, it is necessary to protect us all from this virus,” tweeted Blair.

On social media, the ban and its subsequent extension until Jan. 6 predictably drew the ire of both travelers hoping to return to Canada and detractors who accused the government of taking too long to close the Canadian border to travelers from the UK. 

Several tweeters openly mocked the measure as likely to be ineffective at curbing the spread of the mutated strain of the virus.

“I think the ‘borders are closed’ announcement that is made monthly is laughable,” tweeted Tracy Rice. “How many flights fly in and out of Canada daily? How many cars cross the Canada/US border daily? The borders aren’t closed at all. Are you sure that flights won’t be coming in from the UK? I’m not.”

Although there has not yet been a single case of the new strain of Covid-19 reported in Canada, some experts think it might already be in the country.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease expert, is among them. In an interview two days after Canada first imposed a ban on flights from the UK, Fauci mused the new strain might already be in Canada.

Many Canadians, though, appreciate Ottawa’s cautious approach and the extension of the travel ban.

“Good decision,” tweeted Val Shaw. “All flights should be canceled in and out unless it’s for really essential travel.  Our borders should be closed. I see so many U.S. license plates here in Vancouver.  It’s a joke. More enforcement is needed.”

Another tweeter echoed that support for the prime minister’s decision.

“Thank you, sir, for your hard work on our behalf,” tweeted Patrick Fowler.

In Canada, the Covid-19 pandemic had already claimed 14,703 lives as of Thursday, 11 months after the first case appeared in the country on Jan. 25. 

The vast majority of the 534,502 people who have been stricken with the illness have so far recovered but 76,085 were still struggling with Covid-19 as of Christmas Eve. 

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