Canadian airlines ask government to drop mandatory arrival testing requirement

Canadian airlines ask government to drop mandatory arrival testing requirement

Canada’s largest airlines and the country’s busiest airport are asking the federal government to drop its rule requiring vaccinated travellers to test on arrival for COVID-19.

In a letter Monday to the federal and Ontario governments, Air Canada, WestJet and Toronto’s Pearson airport called for a shift of testing capacity from airports to the community.

“As the government has ramped up testing at airports for international arrivals, we have seen frontline workers struggle to get PCR tests and lab processing capacity decrease significantly,” the letter said, citing schools, hospitals and long-term care homes as particular priorities.

“There is a growing discrepancy between resources allocated to asymptomatic travellers and to those who need it most.”

As COVID-19 cases have surged in recent weeks, many provinces have decided to restrict molecular PCR testing to those at a higher risk of being hospitalized from COVID-19 or who are in settings where the virus could spread more quickly.

Travellers coming to Canada need to have a pre-arrival negative molecular test result for COVID-19. Once they arrive, those coming from any country other than the United States are tested again and must isolate until they get their results. Those coming from the U.S. are tested randomly.

The airlines and airport say testing international arrivals isn’t the best use of Canada’s limited testing resources. The percentage of positive tests for those checked at the Canada’s airports in the most recent week reported is also far lower than tests in the community, they note.

Air Canada, WestJet and Pearson want the government to revert to random arrival testing of international travellers and only require isolation for those arriving from an international location if they are exhibiting symptoms or test positive on a random test. They say those who do not have any symptoms after a negative pre-departure test before travel to Canada should not be required to isolate.

The Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable also urged the federal government Friday to redeploy the testing capacity and return to random testing for arriving travellers.

“Many of those tests are being sent to other provinces for processing. And the processing time, which is supposed to have a standard delivery of three days, is exceeding that,” Tourism Industry Association of Canada president Beth Potter said in phone interview.

“Travellers are looking at that and saying, ‘I don’t want to spend seven of my 10-day vacation in a hotel room waiting for test results.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 17, 2022.


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