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

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the Canadian government should consider sanctions on the U.S. if they refuse to reconsider the decision to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Keystone XL officially cancelled, Kenney vows to fight on

U.S. President Joe Biden cancelled the presidential permit for the pipeline on first day of office

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said province’s test positivity rate for COVID-19 is steadily declining. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
669 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta, 21 additional deaths

COVID-19 test positivity rate down to 4.5 per cent

Kyla Gibson with her boyfriend Gavin Hardy. (Photo used with permission)
Sylvan Lake couple lose ‘fur babies’ to house fire

‘They were our world and nothing will ever replace them,’ Kyla Gibson said of her three pets

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported an additional 456 COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Five new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, two in Red Deer

Province reports 456 new cases of COVID-19

Businesses are getting creative to keep cash flowing. (File photo)
Central Albertan lobbying government to help those affected by CERB repayments

Catherine Hay says she received a letter in November saying she had to completely repay the benefit

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

(Thesendboys/Instagram)
Video of man doing backflip off Vancouver bridge draws police condemnation

Group says in Instagram story that they ‘don’t do it for the clout’

Toronto’s Mass Vaccination Clinic is shown on Sunday January 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Canadian malls, conference centres, hotels offer up space for COVID vaccination centres

Commercial real estate association REALPAC said that a similar initiative was seeing success in the U.K.

Kamala Harris and Joe Biden are sworn into office on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)
Joe Biden has been sworn in as the 46th president of the United States

About 25,000 National Guard members have been dispatched to Washington

A memorial for the fatal bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos hockey team at the intersection of Highways 35 and 335 near Tisdale, Tuesday, October 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards
‘End of the road:’ Truck driver in Humboldt Broncos crash awaits deportation decision

Sidhu was sentenced almost two years ago to eight years after pleading guilty to dangerous driving

In this March 28, 2017, file photo, a dump truck hauls coal at Contura Energy’s Eagle Butte Mine near Gillette, Wyo. Public opposition to the Alberta government’s plans to expand coal mining in the Rocky Mountains appears to be growing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mead Gruver, File
Alberta cancels coal leases, pauses future sales, as opposition increases

New Democrat environment critic Marlin Schmidt welcomed the suspension

File photo
Wetaskiwin Crime Reduction Unit recovers valuable stolen property

Property valued at over $50,000 recovered by Wetaskiwin Crime Reduction Unit.

In this March 28, 2017, file photo, a dump truck hauls coal at Contura Energy’s Eagle Butte Mine near Gillette, Wyo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mead Gruver, File)
First Nations seek to intervene in court challenge of coal policy removal

Bearspaw, Ermineskin and Whitefish First Nations are among those looking to intervene

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau vows to keep up the fight to sway U.S. on merits of Keystone XL pipeline

Canada’s pitch to the Biden team has framed Keystone XL as a more environmentally friendly project than original

Most Read