Canada has said it would ban all flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days due to the growing wave of COVID-19 cases in that region.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said the ban would start late Thursday, speaking hours after India reported a global record of more than 314,000 new infections in the previous 24-hours.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, meanwhile, apologised Thursday for a failed attempt to close playgrounds and allow police to stop and question people who were not in their homes, measures that created a backlash from police forces, health officials and the public.
The leader of Canada’s most populous province, in his first public appearance since announcing the restrictions, said his government had moved too fast with the measures.
“They left a lot of people angry and upset. I know we got it wrong. I know we made a mistake and for that I’m sorry and sincerely apologize,” said Ford, who appeared to choke back tears at one point.
But Ford said he won’t resign despite widespread calls for him to do so.
He also suggested his government will offer province-paid paid sick leave for COVID-19 patients, but announced no details. The lack of such a program has led to widespread complaints.
The pandemic restrictions Ford’s government announced last Friday immediately ran into opposition. Police departments insisted they wouldn’t use new powers to randomly stop pedestrians or motorists and doctors complained the rules focused on outdoor activities like playgrounds and golf rather than more dangerous indoor settings.
Restaurants, gyms and classrooms across the province already had been closed. Most nonessential workers are working from home.
On Saturday, Ford retracted the ban on playgrounds, though outdoor recreation activities such as golf remain forbidden in Ontario, the only jurisdiction in North America that now bans it.
Vaccinations have ramped up in Canada, but health experts say more-contagious variants and a failure to take the right measures against the virus has led to a third wave of infections in Ontario.
Ford himself is isolating after a staff member tested positive.
“Ford chose to walk people into a catastrophic third wave. He chose politics over public health. Today, he offered nothing,” opposition New Democratic Party leader Andrea Horwath tweeted. “Ford must pass paid sick days, close non-essential businesses & send vaccines to hotspots. Today.”