Feds revisiting travel ban on African countries as Omicron spreads

by Leo Almazora16 Dec 2021

Nearly two years since the pandemic first created uncertainty for Canadian travellers, the country’s travel industry is facing virus-induced uncertainty once again as the federal government reassesses a travel ban on 10 nations in Africa following calls for the measures to be lifted.

“There is an active examination of that situation seeing this virus is in many countries,” Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam in a statement calling the ban “a policy that needs to be revisited.”

As reported by the Canadian Press, the federal government cited rates of community transmission rates of Omicron when it introduced restrictions on travellers from seven African countries – South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini – on Nov. 26. On November 30, the ban was expanded to include Nigeria, Malawi and Egypt.

Under the policy, all foreign nationals who passed through those countries in the past two weeks are not permitted to enter Canada. Canadians, permanent residents, and those who have the right to return to Canada have been able to fly home, but are confronted with new requirements for testing and government quarantine stays upon arrival.

While Tam said the Public Health Agency of Canada has found a higher test-positivity rate from certain countries on the list, she also highlighted how it is “very important” for federal officials should “re-examine that policy.”

Dr. Howard Njoo, Tam’s deputy, struggled to answer questions about the ongoing scientific basis for measures as corresponding bans in other nations have been lifted, and other countries not on Canada’s restrictions list such as the United Kingdom are also now experiencing high Omicron transmission rates.

‘We’re obviously monitoring the situation,” he said. “We’re seeing what’s happening both here in Canada domestically, internationally and that data, that advice information is given to ministers.

“Ministers in the Cabinet, the prime minister, everyone is looking at all of that data and taking other factors into account and carefully considering and potentially, like I say, other decisions may be forthcoming,” he added.

In a press briefing on Thursday, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said the government is continuing to assess its border measures, including the list of 10 South African countries subject to travel prohibitions, and “there are other considerations being taken into account.”