Quebec calls on Ottawa to ban non-essential flights over COVID-19 variant fears

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MONTREAL — Quebec Premier Francois Legault is calling on the federal government to ban all non-essential flights to Canada.

Legault said Tuesday he's worried that people travelling to vacation destinations will bring new variants of COVID-19 back to the province.

While the premier said it may be difficult to determine which flights are essential, he said it's clear that flights to sun destinations are non-essential.

His comments came after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier in the day urged Canadians to cancel any plans they have for an international trip in the near future. Trudeau warned the federal government could at any time, and without warning, enforce new restrictions on travellers returning to Canada.

Quebec on Tuesday revised its COVID-19 vaccination schedule as a result of the expected slowdown in Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shipments.

The Health Department said it would lower its target of administering 250,000 doses by Feb. 8, to 225,000 doses, adding it expects to have received 1,203,100 doses of approved vaccine by March 29.

Last week, Canada learned production of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would be reduced over the next month in order for Pfizer to expand its facilities.

Quebec says it will maintain its plan to deliver booster shots within 90 days of the first injection.

The vaccination announcement came as public health authorities in the province reported the lowest number of new infections in a single day since early December.

Quebec today reported 1,386 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday and 55 additional deaths linked to the virus, including 16 deaths within the preceding 24 hours.

The number of hospitalizations rose by nine from the day before to 1,500, the Health Department said, while the number of people in intensive care declined by five from the previous day, to 212.

Quebec has reported 245,734 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 9,142 deaths linked to the novel coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic.

Health Minister Christian Dube on Monday boasted the province had met its target of vaccinating 75 per cent of long-term care residents, with the remainder expected to be inoculated by Jan. 25.

Officials say people living in private seniors residences across the province are next in line to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021.

The Canadian Press