Canada is reconsidering its travel ban on 10 African countries amid calls for it to be lifted, and questions over the government’s rationale given the increasingly widespread transmission of the Omicron variant across the world.
According to Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam, it’s “a policy that needs to be revisited.”
“There is an active examination of that situation seeing this virus is in many countries,” Tam said.
On Nov. 26 the federal government first restricted travellers from seven African countries—South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini—from entering Canada, citing rates of community transmission of Omicron. It was then expanded to include Nigeria, Malawi and Egypt on Nov. 30.
The policy bans the entry into Canada of all foreign nationals who travelled to these countries in the last 14 days. Canadians, permanent residents as well as all those who have the right to return to Canada have still been able to fly home but are facing new testing and government quarantine facility stays upon arrival.
Tam said that while the Public Health Agency of Canada has detected a higher test-positivity rate from certain countries on the list, she thinks it’s “very important” for federal officials to “re-examine that policy.”
Facing questions about the ongoing scientific basis for these measures given other nations have lifted their bans and now there are high rates of Omicron transmission in other countries that aren’t on the banned list like the United Kingdom, Tam’s deputy, Dr. Howard Njoo, couldn’t say what the rationale for that is.
‘We’re obviously monitoring the situation. We have sort of the data. We’re seeing what’s happening both here in Canada domestically, internationally and that data, that advice information is given to ministers,” Njoo said.
“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.”
On Thursday, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra told reporters that the government continues to assess its border measures and “there are other considerations being taken into account,” including on the 10 countries list.