Canada’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is guided by the latest science and research. The Government of Canada is closely monitoring the genetic variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 identified in the United Kingdom and is working with international partners, including the World Health Organization to better understand this variant and its impacts.
Earlier today, the Prime Minister convened a meeting of the Incident Response Group to discuss the new variant of COVID-19 identified in the United Kingdom. Minister of Health Patty Hajdu, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair, Minister of Transport Marc Garneau, President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc, and Minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne participated in the meeting.
Genetic variation of viruses such as the one that causes COVID-19 is to be expected and have been previously observed in parts of the world this year. While early data suggest that the United Kingdom variant may be more transmissible, to date there is no evidence that the mutations have any impact on symptom severity, antibody response or vaccine efficacy.
Evidence is, however, limited at this time and more research is needed in Canada and around the world. Given the high number of cases of a variant COVID-19 virus observed in some areas in the United Kingdom, the decision has been made to suspend entry into Canada of all commercial and private passenger flights from the United Kingdom for 72 hours, effective midnight tonight.
- While no cases linked to this new strain have been identified in Canada, work continues to identify if this variant is present or has been previously observed in Canada. The Canadian and global medical, public health and research community are actively evaluating mutations to better understand the potential implications in terms of transmission, clinical presentation, and vaccine development.
- The Government of Canada contributed $40 million to support the creation of the Canadian COVID-19 Genomics Network (CanCOGeN) to help understand the genetic variations of the virus as it evolves.
- Canadians are advised to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada and avoid all cruise ship travel until further notice. Canada’s official global advisory, cruise ship advisory and pandemic COVID-19 travel health notice are still in effect.
Canada has had robust travel restrictions and border measures in place since March 2020, including mandatory quarantine measures, which require travellers to quarantine or isolate for 14 days immediately upon entry to Canada. Those measures remain in place.
Additionally, passengers who arrived in Canada today from the United Kingdom are now subject to secondary screening and enhanced measures, including increased scrutiny of quarantine plans. Passengers who arrived recently from the United Kingdom will also receive additional direction from the Government of Canada.