October 27, 2020
The federal government will be testing arriving international travellers for COVID-19 as a means to relax existing quarantine rules.

As reported first by the Toronto Sun, returning travellers will still be legally required to undergo a 14-day quarantine, but those who agree to a COVID-19 test upon entry can — if they test negative — forgo quarantine if they agree to a second test within a week. 

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveiled the plan’s pilot project, starting Nov. 2, at two Alberta ports of entry — Calgary International Airport and the Coutts land crossing. 

“We must move forward to develop policies that facilitate safe travel as a key part of economic recovery,” Kenney said. 

That’s a position advocated by airlines and travel authorities around the world, and one where Canada has lagged behind.

Since March, only four Canadian airports — Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver — are permitted to accept international flights, with some exceptions.

Government records reveal dozens of flights with passengers with confirmed COVID-19 infections, with Toronto becoming a ‘central hub’ for spreading the virus to the rest of Canada via domestic flights.

Health Canada data shows three international arrivals at YYZ had COVID-positive passengers over the past two weeks, compared to four domestic flights.

Only international passengers will be tested — sources tell the Suntests will be administered before customs clearance.

When this program may be expanded to Toronto isn’t known, 

When asked by the Sun, a Health Canada spokesperson referred to the press release, which describes the initiative as a “pilot project that will engage both levels of government as well as industry and research partners, and will help inform decisions on new measures for international travel.”

In September, Barret Armann — president of Unifor Local 7378 representing Sunwing pilots — reported a frustratingly fruitless meeting with top government officials, urging them to implement arrival testing at Canadian airports.

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu last month dismissed the August approval of rapid antigen testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, calling it a “false sense of security,” and on Thursday in the House of Commons, Parliamentary Secretary to the Transport Minister Chris Bittle said rapid testing “isn’t a magic solution.”

Hajdu’s stance seems to have done a 180 after Health Canada earlier this month suddenly gave the nod for three, on-site, lab-free rapid COVID-19 tests to be sold in Canada.

Canada said it will purchase over 16 million rapid tests, 100,000 of which arrived in Canada on Wednesday, but it’s unsure where they’ll be distributed.

Armann praised the move, saying both he and Sunwing have been urging the government to take action for months.

“Local 7378 has pushed for this so that the industry can survive and our pilots can get back to work,” he said.

Toronto SUN – International Passengers to be Offered COVID-19 Tests

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