Canada imposes 3-day U.K. passenger flight ban to block new COVID-19 variant

Toronto international aiport
(Image credit: Cole Burston/Getty Images)

Canada joined a growing number of European countries Sunday night and banned passenger flights from Britain, effective midnight Sunday, as southern England grapples with a new variant of COVID-19. The ban will be in place for 72 hours, Canada's health ministry said, and it will not apply to cargo planes or emergency landings. The three-day ban — which falls somewhere in the middle of the durations imposed by different European countries — is "necessary for aviation safety and the protection of the public," Transport Canada said.

The new strain of COVID-19 is up to 70 percent more transmissible than the primary COVID-19 strain spreading around the world, officials say, and it's likely but not certain the existing vaccines will work to inoculate people against the new variant. Canada said no new cases linked to the new variant have been detected in the country.

The U.S. has not yet imposed any new restrictions on travel from Britain. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) said Sunday he thinks that's "reprehensible," but he has no authority to imposed a travel ban on his own. "We have about six flights a day coming in from the U.K. and we have done absolutely nothing," Cuomo said, noting that the strain that decimated New York in the spring came via Europe, not China. "Right now this variant in the U.K. is getting on a plane and flying to JFK. Right now, today. 120 countries require a test. We don't. Other European countries have done a ban. We haven't." He added that "all it takes is one person."

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.