Mandatory random testing of travelers resumes at major Canadian airports

The federal government announced plans Thursday to begin randomly testing travelers at Canada’s four major airports for COVID-19 again next week, but intends to move the actual swab off-site.

Ottawa halted random testing of vaccinated travelers who entered Canada by air on June 11, while working to move testing locations out of airports.

The government now says mandatory testing on randomly selected passengers will resume on July 19 for fully vaccinated travelers arriving at airports in Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Toronto.

All testing, for vaccinated, unvaccinated and partially vaccinated travelers, will take place outside of airports.

The government initially halted testing as it faced an avalanche of criticism from air travel and tourism industry groups who felt federal public health measures were responsible for the chaotic state of Canada’s airports.

At the time, Canada’s Travel and Tourism Roundtable all but begged federal ministers to lift the test requirement permanently, alleging that “outdated rules” were causing serious customs delays, missed flights, lines of long hours and soured Canada’s reputation.

In a statement Thursday, the roundtable called the move to resume testing “unfairly targets Canada’s tourism sector and negatively impacts Canadian and international travellers.”

“The reimposition of these measures is an unnecessary and unhelpful step backwards that continues to misalign Canada with its international partners and marks air travel as the only consumer activity in the country with strict health measures.”

The chaos at the airport has continued in the weeks since testing was suspended.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said on Thursday the tests were suspended because the government realized they were increasing congestion at airports, but he was always clear they would resume off-site.

Canada will bring back mandatory random testing for travelers arriving at major #airports. #CDNPoli #Covid19

Deputy Director of Public Health Dr. Howard Njoo said random testing is an important part of Canada’s strategy to detect new variants entering the country.

“It is important to know about this to formulate other recommendations,” Njoo said in French at a news conference announcing the approval of a pediatric vaccine against COVID-19.

The head of the public health office, Dr. Theresa Tam, has said in the past that the airport tests act as an “early warning system” for new variants.

Conservative party critics called the government’s decision to resume random testing a “duplication of the decision to impose additional pandemic theatre”.

“Only now, to avoid the image of chaos at airports, will travelers face the additional inconvenience of being forced to travel off-site for testing,” several critics, including health critic Michael Barrett and the transportation critic Melissa Lantsman. joint declaration

Conservatives say Liberals have been unable to explain the scientific justification for their pandemic restrictions, especially the random testing of travelers with all vaccinations.

Testing will be completed at an in-person appointment at select testing locations or via virtual appointment for a swab test.

Travelers who are not fully vaccinated must be tested on both the first and eighth days of their mandatory 14-day quarantine, unless exempt.

Fully vaccinated travelers will be randomly selected for testing upon arrival at the four largest airports and sent to an off-site location for testing to be completed.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 14, 2022.

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