Alarmed by rising COVID infections and deaths in India, Canada announced late April 22 night a ban on flights originating from India and Pakistan for 30 days.
While the flight ban announcement was made by Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, it was Health Minister Patty Hajdu that provided the reason for doing so.
“Minister Hajdu said that while only 1.8 per cent of all air travellers entering Canada are testing positive, federal data show people travelling from India made up 50 per cent of all positive tests — despite the fact that Indian travellers account for only 20 per cent of travel to this country,” according to the CBC.
The health minister further claimed that similar figures were recorded for Pakistan.
On April 23 afternoon, Crescent International contacted Transport Canada seeking information about the number of flights originating from Pakistan and the number of passengers that had tested positive.
We were directed to contact Health Canada.
A specific inquiry was sent to Health Canada immediately. Our questions were very simple.
“1: Number of flights from Pakistan in the same period as those from India;
2: Specific infection rate for arriving passengers from Pakistan”
We requested this information to be provided asap since our deadline for submission was approaching.
At 7:08 pm on Friday April 23, we received the following response from Health Canada.
“We hope to be in contact with you ASAP on Monday April 26.
Given that Health Minister Hajdu had made a bold claim about similar figures for passengers arriving on flights originating from Pakistan, this information should have been available right away.
Instead, a faceless, nameless bureaucrat identifying herself/himself only with initials A.G. responded and delayed the answer until sometime Monday April 26.
On Monday April 26 morning, we sent a reminder to Health Canada for a response.
This is what we got back at 10:56 am.
“You will appreciate that time is required to look into media inquiries and respond thoroughly.
"Please plan to send your questions during business hours or with enough time ahead of your deadline to give us a fair chance to consult our experts.
"Your questions were sent to our experts first thing this morning. We’re hoping to get back before close of business ET today, but we’re encountering a large number of requests and there might be further delays.”
When we expressed disappointment at Health Canada's non-response, this is what we got back at 11:19 am.
“You can use the Minister’s statement for your story. Just make sure to indicate the date she made the statement.
“We wanted to be thorough and provide an updated statement. If that is not needed, let us know.
Let me know when you are filing your story. We will stand down.”
Let us get the facts straight.
New double mutants had been detected in India as early as February. The Indian government took no notice.
Instead, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was more interested in campaigning than worrying about the surging infections and people’s suffering.
Today, India’s daily infections at 350,000 are the highest in the world. A total of 17.3 million have been infected, second only to infections in the US although the latter has now brought the situation largely under control.
Official figures say only 2676 people died on Saturday April 24 but hospital and media sources in India assert the actual death toll is much higher. Total deaths have now surpassed 191,000.
For instance, in Bhopal, crematoriums said they had burned 110 bodies in a single day while the official death toll for the day was only 10.
Britain’s Sky News reporter, filing a report from outside Delhi’s largest Hospital showed scores of people lying outside the hospital entrance.
People were gasping for oxygen and during the compilation of her report, several people died there.
She also reported seeing three bodies being hauled out of the hospital.
Amid the surging pandemic, Indian authorities refused to stop the Kumbh Mela (a Hindu festival) in which virtually naked devotees plunge into the polluted Ganges river.
Instead, the authorities arranged for 25 extra trains, packed like sardines, to the festival site.
An estimate 10 million Hindu devotees participated in the festival without masks or observing social distancing.
The Uttarakhand state where the festival was held, had already reported the double mutant weeks earlier.
In particular, the B.1617 variant was found in India last fall, according to the World Health Organization. It spreads much faster and affects even young people.
It has now been confirmed in BC, Quebec, Alberta and Ontario, according to the CBC, no doubt brought by passengers from India.
It seems the Canadian government is terrified and does not want to upset the Modi regime, even at the expense of Canadian citizens’ health.
“Bungling” is the word when it comes to addressing the pandemic both at the federal and provincial levels.