Confusion as Canada introduces new pandemic travel measures

Passengers and airport operators have been left confused over a new hurriedly assembled Canada pandemic travel measures to test all non-American international travellers to the country for COVID-19.

The plan which was released on Tuesday by the federal government has few details about its implementation.

According to the plan, all incoming passengers from non-U.S. foreign destinations will be made to get another COVID-19 test when they arrive in Canada. This new test is in addition to the pre-departure molecular test that all travellers must undergo before leaving for Canada.

Jean-Yves Duclos, the Health Minister on Wednesday told reporters that the new arrival testing program will take effect immediately. “That is starting today.”

However, there are no signs as of today that the program is actually up and running.

The confusion about the program

  1. When does the program actually goes into effect … something even Air Canada and WestJet appear not to know.
  2. Another concern is just where travellers are expected to self-isolate while waiting for their test results.
  3. The government’s COVID-19 travel website still displays information about the old arrival testing requirements. Under that outgoing program, fully vaccinated travellers were exempted from arrival testing but some were randomly selected for take-home tests. Those travellers self-administered the test while on a video link with a nurse from a private company, such as Dynacare, LifeLabs, or Switch Health, to make sure it was done right. The specimen was then sent via courier to a laboratory.
  4. That out-going randomized program is being replaced with mandatory arrival testing for all passengers, regardless of vaccination status. Federal health officials have not said who will administer the arrival tests or whether the tests will be administered on-site or through take-home kits.
  5. The health minister has said that some passengers may have to wait for up to three days in self-isolation before they get their results. Where those passengers will wait is still unclear.

“Once they enter through a Canadian airport, they need to be tested on arrival, either directly at the airport or, if that is not possible, they take a home test and do that home test at home. While they wait for the result of that test to be known, they isolate themselves. And when they get a negative test, they can exit out of their isolation period,” the health minister told reporters Wednesday.

The president of the Canadian Airports Council, the organization that represents many of the country’s airports, Daniel-Robert Gooch, when asked by CBC News on Thursday if airports are ready to hand out tests or arrange for on-site testing, said he’s still not sure how the program will work.

“Unfortunately, we have no new information on how or when the new testing requirements will be implemented.”

“The use of off-site tests, such as take-home tests, will be essential to making it work. Our members have told us it would not be possible to process 100 per cent of all non-U.S. international travellers on-site,” he said.

New Canada pandemic travel measures safety concern

Canada’s airports are questioning just how safe it is to cram thousands of passengers into a confined area of an airport not purpose-built for health procedures.

Gooch said their preference is for travellers to take these tests “in the safety and comfort of their own home or other destination.”

In an email by the spokesperson for Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, Tori Gass, he said that “a combination of onsite and off-airport testing must be considered to accommodate the volume of tests contemplated.”

 

 

Credits to the original author: J.P. Tasker, a senior writer with the CBC