Toronto: Despite a ban on direct international flights from India by Canada to check the spread of the new Delta variant of Coronavirus, Indian passengers and students are still landing in Toronto and other airports.
The Delta variant accounts for more than 27 per cent of new cases in Ontario, as more international flights with Covid cases landed in Toronto last week.
Sources in the travel industry say that people are skirting the ban on direct flights from India by using international airports in Muscat, Mexico City, Addis Ababa and Belgrade as transit points. International students from India are reportedly paying up to $4,000 for a one-way ticket to land in Canada via Doha and Addis Ababa.
“Passengers from India are mainly using these airports transit points to land in Canada because they get to do a quick Covid test at the airports and board onward flights,” said a travel agent in Toronto.
“Indians are landing in Mexico City via Europe. After a two-day stay there, they get their Covid test, board onward flight and land in Toronto,” said the travel agent.
In Muscat, they are required to stay only for 14 hours to take their Covid test and then board onward flights. In Addis Ababa and Belgrade, passengers are required to stay in a hotel for three days before they get their Covid test done and board onward flights.
The problem with using these airports as transit points is that if a passenger gets infected just before boarding a flight from India and lands in Muscat or Belgrade, his/her test after 14 hours or three days would come negative because the symptoms take up to five days to emerge.
“Their symptoms show just before or after landing in Canada. That’s how many international flights are bringing Covid cases, including those of the Delta variant, into Canada as people have found ways to beat the Canadian ban,” said an industry source.
Canada first 30-day ban on direct flights from India and Pakistan, which came into effect on April 22 was extended until June 21 to halt the spread control the spread of new variants of the novel coronavirus, especially the newly-identified Delta variant.
A Government of Canada advisory said: “During that period, passengers who travel to Canada from India via an indirect route will need to obtain a pre-departure negative COVID-19 molecular test result from a third country before continuing their journey to Canada. Travellers who have previously tested positive for COVID-19 must provide proof of a positive COVID-19 molecular test conducted between 14 and 90 days prior to departure, instead of a negative COVID-19 molecular test. This proof must be obtained in a third country before the continuation of the journey to Canada. You might need to seek entry and stay in a third country for at least 14 days.”