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Enhanced COVID-19 screening at Canadian airports, border crossings, over virus variant fears

Last Updated Dec 23, 2020 at 8:10 am MDT

FILE: A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Canada implementing additional COVID-19 measures to ensure new virus variant doesn't make its way here

Public safety minister says infections related to international travel account for less than two per cent of all cases

Country's top doctor says new virus variant hasn't been detected in Canada yet

VANCOUVER – Federal officials say calls by premiers to tighten Canada’s border crossings miss a key point about COVID-19.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says infections related to international travel currently account for less than two per cent of all cases, and Canada’s deputy chief public health officer has said the biggest problem in this country is community transmission, not the importation of cases.

This comes as Ottawa implements enhanced screening at airports and border crossings to identify travellers arriving from the U.K., where a new variant of the coronavirus has been detected.

On Sunday, Canada suspended all passenger flights from the U.K. for a period of 72 hours, following the lead of other nations around Europe that also halted travel from Britain.

As of Tuesday, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the variant has not been detected in Canada.

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Measures are part of an effort to ensure the new virus mutation doesn’t make its way into the country. It has been detected in Australia, Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu assured Canadians that “the whole research community” has been working on the newly detected strain, which British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said appears to spread much more easily.

Blair’s assurance that Canada is doing enough at its borders came after criticism from Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who said on Monday that Ottawa needed to do more to prevent sick travellers from entering country.

Ford hit back at the federal government again on Tuesday, telling reporters that he believes Canada must require that travellers to obtain a negative COVID-19 test before they arrive on Canadian soil.