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36 India variant cases confirmed in Ontario, Ford calls for tougher border restrictions

He says the new measures announced this week aren't enough and he wants all non-essential travel to Canada closed immediately

With 36 confirmed cases of the new variant of concern first detected in India in the province, Premier Doug Ford is calling for tougher border restrictions.

While the federal government suspended passenger flights from India and Pakistan this week, Ford says the measures aren't enough and is calling to close all non-essential travel into Canada immediately.

In a statement, Ford said it's "extremely troubling" that the B.1.617 variant has been detected in Ontario. Previous calls for tougher border restrictions, he said, were to avoid this situation.

"Right now our ICU capacity is stretched to its limits by the UK variant that got through our borders late last year. I am extremely concerned about the threat of this latest variant," said Ford in the statement.

"The images we are seeing from other parts of the world right now are heartbreaking. These deadly new variants are causing devastation in India and other countries. We can’t let that happen here."

Recently, COVID-19 cases in India and Pakistan have surged.

The new B.1.617 variant was detected in British Columbia and Quebec earlier this week. The first cases in Ontario were confirmed yesterday.

Thursday, the federal government suspended all incoming commercial and private passenger flights from India and Pakistan for a month.

People travelling from one of those countries who stop at another location before arriving in Canada will be required to go through customs in that country and get another negative COVID-19 test there. Once in Canada, they are required to quarantine.

"We need more action on our borders right now. The federal government must close all non-essential travel to Canada immediately. The new border measures announced at the end of this week came far too late and don’t do nearly enough to protect Canadians. Without further action we risk prolonging the third wave, or creating the conditions for a fourth one," reads the statement.

"We won’t put this pandemic behind us if we can’t get ahead of these deadly variants cropping up around the world. I’m pleading with the federal government to close the border before new variants push us into more lockdowns and another crisis.”

In Ontario, non-essential interprovincial travel is prohibited and there are checkpoints at the Manitoba and Quebec borders. These measures were effective Monday, April 19.

Today, Public Health Ontario reported 4,094 new COVID-19 cases, 4,332 recoveries and 24 new deaths.

There is a provincial shutdown and stay-at-home order in effect until further notice. For more details on the latest regulations, visit the Ontario website here.