Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, Monday Dec. 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tolga Akmen/Pool via AP

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, Monday Dec. 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tolga Akmen/Pool via AP

‘A bombshell’: Canadians stuck in U.K. face uncertainty after Canada shuts air travel

Canada is one of several countries to ban travel from the U.K. due to the new strain of the virus

Mark Sultana says Canada’s decision to halt most air travel from the United Kingdom, where a mutated strain of COVID-19 has been discovered, landed “like a bombshell.”

The 52-year-old Canadian entrepreneur, who has called London home for the better part of two decades, said the move announced late Sunday has been especially disconcerting for Canadians who had planned to visit family and friends back home over the holidays.

“We can’t go anywhere — any of us,” Sultana, an administrator of the Facebook group “Canadians in London” said in an interview Monday. “We’re landlocked on this island, and it’s lots of Canadians who are affected.”

Originally from the Greater Toronto Area, Sultana said members of the 6,800-person Facebook group have reported their flights being cancelled. He said confusion and surprise reigned in the hours after Canada’s decision.

“They were prepared to quarantine and do the things that they needed to do to get back home, but now they’re completely stuck,” Sultana said.

The federal government said late Sunday that passenger flights from the U.K. into Canada would be suspended for 72 hours in an attempt to keep out a new strain of COVID-19 discovered by British health officials.

“These additional measures will allow public health officials time to gather further evidence and help reduce the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said in a statement announcing the border restrictions.

Canada is one of several countries to ban travel from the U.K. due to the new strain of the virus, which British officials said appears to be 70 per cent more transmissible.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Saturday that London and the southeast of England would be placed under stricter, “tier 4” COVID-19 restrictions due to a surge in cases and concerns over the new variant. British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the strain is “out of control” in those areas.

This isn’t the first time London has been under lockdown, however, said 32-year-old Julien Gagnon, a native of Saint-Lambert, Que., who has lived in the U.K. for 10 years, including nearly five years in the British capital.

He said people have been hunkering down in London for weeks, but that the largest impact of “tier 4” restrictions will be felt in the coming days, as holiday gatherings between people from different households now are banned.

“I’m pretty sure that for the very vast majority of people, it feels exactly the same way that it must feel in Canada right now,” he said in an interview. “We can’t do anything. We need to stay inside. We can’t see friends, we can’t see family, we can’t celebrate Christmas.”

READ MORE: Canada among countries to hit Britain with travel ban over coronavirus variant

In that way, Gagnon said daily life in London seems similar to his home province of Quebec, where Premier Francois Legault this month reversed plans to allow holiday gatherings over four days. Quebec has recorded over 6,200 new COVID-19 cases over the past three days and additional restrictions, namely the closure of non-essential businesses, are coming into effect on Dec. 25.

“We were going to have a bit more freedom around Christmas than in Quebec; now it’s exactly the same thing,” said Gagnon, adding that he plans to do a Zoom call with his family in Canada.

Bobby Demers, a Toronto native who has lived in the U.K. since 1988, said many people were out shopping in London on Monday, fuelled in part by fears that fresh produce will run out as the borders close.

“I went to the local supermarket this morning … and the lineup, with cars, was outside the shopping centre itself,” he said.

The U.K. is less than two weeks away from the final stage of its exit from the European Union and the British government has not yet reached a trade deal with the 27-member bloc.

“This almost is like a precursor of what’s going to happen in two weeks when (the) lorries and the trucks and the planes are not going to be able to go back and forth very easily between England and Europe,” Demers said in an interview.

An administrator of a Facebook group called “Canadians in the U.K.,” which has 5,300 members, Demers said people are banding together and offering words of support amid the uncertainty. “The empathy that as Canadians we have for each other has really come out,” he said.

“People have this view of London as (a place where) people don’t talk to each other, people avoid eye contact, but when things get tight and in times of emergency, people here do tend to come together.”

— With files from The Associated Press.

Jillian Kestler-D’Amours, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusUnited Kingdom

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Those who walk by the welcome figure often touch hands with it. (Screenshot/Jessica Poirier)
‘A presence in the school’: The story behind Hope Secondary’s welcome figure

After a year’s worth of delays due to COVID, the welcome figure… Continue reading

Environment Canada says the Eastern Fraser Valley will enjoy plenty of sunshine this week. (Black Press News File)
Sunny weather to stay around all week in Eastern Fraser Valley

Chilliwack, Abbotsford and Hope all forecasted for a week free of rainfall

Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld has called for the resignation of B.C.’s Minister of Education, Jennifer Whiteside. He made the call during a speech in Vancouver on April 10, 2021, in a rally for a parent embroiled in legal battles surrounding his child’s transition.
Chilliwack school trustee calls for B.C.’s minister of education to resign

Barry Neufeld spoke at rally for jailed father in Vancouver, calling SOGI 123 a ‘dangerous experiment’

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Emergency crews on scene after a small plane crashed in a grassy area on the northeast side of Boundary Bay Airport Saturday morning (April 10). A freelancer said the plane caught fire and one person was transported to hospital by BC Emergency Health Services. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
1 taken to hospital after plane crash at Metro Vancouver airport

Plane appears to have suffered ‘significant’ damage, says freelancer

Most Read