Suspension On Direct Flights From India Background:
Canada suspended direct flight from India on April 22, 2021 citing the reason of delta variant and increased cases of COVID in India. Since then, this suspension is being extended month-on-month basis. Usually, Transport Ministry will review the situation in Canada and India near to 20-22 of every month and announce the extension, but last extension on this suspension was a surprise as it was announced almost 2 weeks prior to expiry of previous suspension, on 9th of August. However, it was supposed to be announced near to August 21.
Direct Flights From India Last Announcement:
As per Government of Canada announcement, decision of August 9 was based on the latest public health advice from the Public Health Agency of Canada, in which Transport Canada extended suspension on direct flights from India until September 21, 2021, at 23:59 EDT. Along with this, requirement related to third-country pre-departure COVID-19 molecular tests from a third country – other than India – before continuing their journey to Canada was also extended.
Travelers From India Facing Hardships:
This suspension implies that travelers to Canada have to first travel to a third country where they have to get a COVID test done. Travelers can only board the flight to Canada, if their test is found negative in that transiting country. However, traveling via other countries and staying there for a negative PCR report increases costs of travel and also causes stress.
Most of the travelers are coming to Canada for essential reasons such as study. These students are the one who already paid heavy fees for their studies in Canada and now have to pay 5-6 times more on their travel. To put in perspective, normal direct air ticket of Air Canada would cost around $1000 CAD, but now cost of travel via third country would cost them around $5,000-6000. This is a huge amount for students who already paid $15,000-20,000 in college fees plus $10,000 in GIC.
Most of these students’ parents have taken loan seeking a better future for their children. Apart from all other costs, they have to undergo such a mental stress related to the travel.
As per The Quint: “Nearly 2,00,000 students are now inconvenienced as they plan to start their higher education in the North American country.”
Will Direct Flights From India Allowed In Next Announcement?
Canada allowed fully vaccinated tourists from around the world on September 7. They mentioned that decision is based on the “latest available data, scientific evidence and epidemiological situation both in Canada and internationally.” The data recorded between August 9 and 26, showed the positivity rate of 0.19% among fully vaccinated travelers selected randomly for testing at the border. Furthermore, they mentioned that; although, cases are increasing in Canada, but still the illness severity and hospitalization rates remain manageable as Canada’s vaccination rate is increasing.
As of latest data, 79% of Canada’s eligible population is fully vaccinated. Remaining Canadians are either reluctant to get vaccine or have concerns regarding vaccination because 86% have received at least 1 doze. In addition to this, there has been state of medical emergency in Alberta because of increasing COVID cases. Saskatchewan is also facing similar problem. Reason for this is low vaccination rate in these two provinces.
On September 17: As per latest statement by Dr. Theresa Tam (Chief Public Health Officer of Canada) “Nationally, the highly contagious Delta Variant of Concern (VOC), accounts for the majority of recently reported cases, is associated with increased severity, and may reduce the effectiveness of vaccines.”
Total active cases in Canada as of September 17 are 44,382 and increasing day-by-day. Blame is on Delta variant and will continue to be until or unless there is another variant to be blamed.
Our Criticism On India Direct Flights To Canada:
We believe suspension on direct flights from India is useless because of following reasons:
- Delta variant may have originated from India, but as Canada has suspended direct flights from India for more than 6 months now. Then how are cases still increasing? On August 1, cases were around 4,000 and now cases have increased more than 10 folds at 44,382.
- If you say delta variant is still coming to Canada via indirect flights, then there is no point of suspending direct flights.
- Also, if a person is getting a negative COVID test within 72 hours of boarding the flight, then what’s the need of COVID test from third country?
- If you believe that people may contract virus from the third country, then why to force them come via indirect route?
India Direct Flights Next Decision:
Next review on decision for direct flight from India is due now. Previous decision is set to expiree on September 21. However, Government of Canada is not announcing any new decision as of now as it may effect polls on September 20.
We believe transport minister, Omar Alghabra may not announce next review until September 19-20 because of elections. Next announcement will come around September 20-21 and we will post the decision of government.
All the aforementioned data and facts discussed in this article indicates that Canada may allow direct flights from India starting in a phased manner by initially allowing only fully vaccinated travelers to Canada.
However, there are 80% odds that suspension on direct flight from India may extend for another month.
We request government of Canada to establish a phased approach starting with allowing fully vaccinated travelers from India who received Canada approved vaccines and expanding the list of vaccines approved for Canada.