At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, travel restrictions and vaccine passports made sense.
Now, says a growing chorus of voices in the Canadian travel industry, they don’t anymore. Instead, they are contributing to chaos at airports across the country and leaving Canada out of step with the rest of the world.
Beth Potter, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, is one of those voices calling on the federal government to drop COVID-related measures at the border, including the ArriveCan app used to check passengers. vaccination certificates.
“He’s done his thing, but it’s time to move on,” Potter said Tuesday. “We have told the government that it is time to pause the ArriveCan app while it is being used, and we are not alone.”
The app was first introduced in late April 2020, about a month after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.
While airlines grudgingly accepted the need for ArriveCAN when it was introduced, that time has passed, says Suzanne Acton-Gervais, interim director of the National Airlines Council of Canada, the airline industry’s largest trade association.
“The National Airlines Council of Canada believes that the current ArriveCAN app policy has outgrown its usefulness and purpose,” Acton-Gervais said in an email. “Health policies inherited from the pandemic era of the Public Health Agency of Canada, such as ArriveCan, cause significant delays at Canadian customs. ArriveCAN creates a confusing and complex journey for travelers and keeps Canada out of step with other countries.”
A spokesman for Public Security Minister Marco Mendicino, whose ministry oversees the use of ArriveCAN, defended the app, saying it has run smoothly and been used successfully by the vast majority of travellers. If it has been one cause of airport delays, says spokesman Alexander Cohen, it is far from the only one.
“Global travel volumes are up more than 700 percent from their lowest point during the pandemic, and airports around the world are feeling the impact. From too many flights to understaffing, there is no single reason for these delays, but the ArriveCAN app is not the only important factor,” said Cohen.
At the end of June, the federal government announced that it would extend existing travel restrictions, including the mandatory use of ArriveCAN, until at least September 30.
Foreign travelers entering Canada still need proof of vaccination to enter the country, while unvaccinated Canadians and permanent residents must provide a COVID-19 PCR test performed prior to entry, along with a 14-day quarantine upon arrival. .
The government still requires all travelers to upload their travel documents and proof of vaccination to the ArriveCAN app.
Despite defending the app’s performance, Cohen said the government hasn’t ruled out changing or removing ArriveCAN one day.
“We continue to look for opportunities to improve the border-crossing experience for Canadians and those who wish to come here, and no decision has been made about the long-term future of the app,” Cohen said.
Ongoing anti-COVID measures, including ArriveCAN, have put the brakes on what tourism businesses had hoped would be their first busy summer since before the pandemic. Instead, Potter said, many are worried about their survival, especially as most of the government’s financial aid designed to minimize the economic impact of COVID is running out.
“They’ve been closed for the last two summers, and now they’re expanding to a third,” Potter said. “No other industry where you’re up against people still has these restrictions. You can sit in a movie theater. You can have dinner in a restaurant. We are the last ones.
The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA), which operates Toronto Pearson International Airport, says the ArriveCAN app itself isn’t as big an issue as the location where health checks and tests take place.
“The GTAA advocates that all COVID-19 health screenings and tests be done off-airport to make the international arrivals experience more efficient,” spokesman Ryan White said. ArriveCAN can actually make the experience faster, he said, pointing to a new option in the app that allows travelers to upload their clients’ declaration.
“We have already seen significant improvements and benefits as a result of this digital integration,” said White.
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