Dozens of private international flights landed in London, Ont., away from quarantine hotels
Since Feb. 22, London, Ont., is among the top 3 destinations in Canada without a quarantine hotel
Dozens of private international flights landed at London International Airport in the last three months rather than one of the four designated airports where federal health authorities have established quarantine hotels to stop the spread of coronavirus variants from overseas.
An analysis of flight data by CBC News found 62 international flights landed in London, Ont., between February 22 and May 2. The departure points include airports in 18 different states, many of them close to the U.S.-Canada border, as well as one flight out of the Bahamas.
Captured in the data are the types of aircraft used in the flights, which include an array of smaller aircraft, including single and twin aircraft as well as private jet and propeller airliners capable of taking up to 10 passengers at once. However, the data fails to capture who was on those flights.
Since February 22 of this year, all commercial and business flights are supposed to go through one of four designated Canadian airports in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary or Vancouver, where quarantine hotels have been established to control the spread of coronavirus variants from overseas.
Of all the destinations outside the four designated airports, London was among the top three destinations for private flights where quarantine hotels didn't exist, along with Ottawa and Hamilton, Ont., according to the data.
Strains first discovered overseas now dominant in Ontario
The revelations follow multiple requests to fortify the border against the spread of the virus from Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who has written four letters to the federal government requesting enhanced COVID-19 measures that he said Thursday have yet to receive a formal response.
"It's just not happening. Just at Pearson alone, 3,200 people have come in here since January with COVID, not to mention the thousands on the land border and it's just unacceptable."
"These variants, they didn't do the backstroke across the ocean. They didn't fall from Mars. They came in because of our porous borders."
Ford went on to point out that the B117 variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, is now the dominant strain in Ontario, accounting for almost all new infections.
Speaking on Toronto cable news channel CP24 Thursday, Trudeau accused Ford of "pointing fingers" to deflect from his own government's handling of the pandemic.
While federal and provincial governments squabble over who's to blame, local airport and local health authorities told CBC News Thursday they have no control over international flights, which are handled by the federal government. All inbound passengers are expected to comply with the federal Quarantine Act.
Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) spokesman Dan Flaherty said the number of COVID-19 cases in London, Ont., connected with international travel has been "very low."
A CBC News analysis of contact tracing by the MLHU shows 235 cases of COVID-19 linked to international travel, 66 of which were connected to international travel since mid-March, although its not clear whether the travelers came to London by air or by land.
The Canada Border Services Agency did not respond to a request to comment on these inbound flights.
Michigan was the most frequent place private international flights arrived from at London International Airport since the new federal rules were instituted on February 22. Flight data shows 19 flights arrived in London, Ont., from airports in Port Huron (9), Pontiac (1), Detroit (8) and Sault Ste Marie (1).
The planes used in those flights included Brasilia E120 and Piper PA31 twin turboprop commuter aircraft and one Dassault Falcon 20, a type of business jet.
One aircraft registered to an Ontario company was particularly busy during the 71 day period covered in the data.
It made a total of 16 flights in and out of London International Airport with stops in St Thomas, Brantford and Killarney, Ont., Boca Raton, Marco Island and Fort Lauderdale Florida, Charleston, South Carolina and Nassau in the Bahamas, sometimes with only a few days between international flights.
Other inbound flights to London, Ont., from U.S. states included New York, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Alabama, New Jersey, Texas, Illinois, Ohio, Minnesota, Maryland, Iowa, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Vermont.
with files from Laura Clementson, Katie Nicholson, Travis Dolynny and Amanda Margison