‘I don’t see the justification’: Winnipeg woman calling for end of federal flight ban on India so husband can return home

WINNIPEG — A Winnipeg woman is calling on the federal government to end the flight ban on India after it was extended until mid-September.

Canada originally put the ban in place due to a surge in COVID-19 cases back in April, with concern around the Delta variant.

Faith Johnston’s husband, who is a permanent resident of Canada, has been stuck in India since the pandemic broke out in March 2020.

“We’ve been spending a few months in India in the winter,” said Johnston. “He usually extends (the trip) to about four months and I come home earlier … I came home at the beginning of March, he was coming on the 26th and in between those two things, of course, the pandemic struck very hard and there was a big lockdown in India and there were no flights.”

She said her and her husband decided to wait things out, and hoped the situation would improve in the summer. But that wasn’t the case and they continued to wait.

Johnston said by April 2021, her husband had been fully vaccinated and he had scheduled a flight home.

“But then there was a big surge again, this was the Delta variant surge.”

She said they played the waiting game once again, hoping the flight ban would be lifted by summer and he’d be able to return home, but the federal government recently extended the ban to Sept. 21.

“I am quite disgusted, because here we are allowing fully vaccinated travellers from the United States in and the Delta variant is raging more in the United States right now.”

As of Aug. 13, India had 38,775 active cases of COVID-19, while the United States had 115,297 cases on Friday.

Johnston said she has been told by others to book an indirect flight for her husband to Canada through another country like Mexico.

Global Affairs Canada told CTV News if people travel to Canada indirectly, they must get a negative COVID-19 test before continuing into Canada. Global Affairs Canada said that could mean a 14-day stay in the third country.

Johnston said Mexico will give travellers a visa on arrival and her husband would be able to be tested at that point, but she noted that he is 80 years old and that kind of travel is too taxing for him.

“It is very, very, very difficult, if not close to impossible for him to come. I don’t see the justification.”

She said it’s been a very frustrating experience and after 17 months apart, both her and her husband are worried if they will ever get to see each other again.

“We’ve been obeying all the bloody rules,” she said. “I think the flight ban is a major issue and there is no way around it.”

Johnston added she understood why the ban was originally put in place as it was an easy way to stop travel.

“It’s an emergency measure, surely, and yet it’s continued; now it’s five months and we don’t know what will happen.”

Johnston has started to picket outside of MP Jim Carr’s office on weekdays and said she has even spoken with people in his office, but still nothing has changed.

Global Affairs Canada said the country is united with India in combatting COVID-19.

“Global Affairs Canada’s priority remains the health and safety of Canadians. The Government has indicated on numerous occasions that it could implement further travel restrictions on very short notice,” a spokesperson said in an email.

“The Government of Canada continues to take unprecedented action to protect the health and safety of Canadians by continuing to introduce measures to help prevent further introduction and transmission of COVID-19, and new variants of the virus into Canada.”

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