OTTAWA, Dec. 23 (Xinhua) -- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Wednesday his government will extend the ban on passenger flights from the United Kingdom until Jan. 6 to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The extension is in response to the emergence of a new variant of COVID-19 in Britain which health researchers say is more transmissible than the variant currently dominant in Canada. The ban was initially set to expire in 72 hours.
"In addition to the significant measures we already have in place, we acted quickly on additional travel restrictions in response to the situation in the United Kingdom," Trudeau said at a press conference in Ottawa Wednesday afternoon.
"Our government temporarily suspended all commercial and passenger flights from the U.K. to Canada. Today I can announce that we will extend this temporary suspension of passenger flights for another two weeks so we can prevent this new variant of COVID-19 from spreading to Canada," he said.
Canada is one of the countries to ban travel from Britain due to the new variant of the virus, which is reported to be up to 70 percent more transmissible than the previously dominant one in Britain.
Enhanced screening has been reportedly put in place at all Canadian airports and at all points of entry for travelers who may be arriving from Britain indirectly. Canada has not yet detected the variant in an analysis of samples already gathered in the country.
However, Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBC News he "would not be surprised" if the variant was already present in Canada and the United States.
Canadian Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said the Public Health Agency of Canada will be conducting more testing and genomic sequencing on known cases of the variant in the coming days.
"It wouldn't surprise me that this variant is in many different countries," Tam said, adding the new variant will likely eventually make its way to Canada.