OTTAWA – The global Omicron wave is too severe to drop mandatory COVID-19 tests for air travelers arriving in Canada, says Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, despite calls to do so from top airlines, the country’s largest airport and some health experts worried about limited test capacity.
Note that the number of COVID-19 cases is increasing around the world, Duclos said the rise propelled by the Omicron variant remains “a major concern” both in Canada and internationally. He also stressed that the federal government is responsible for Canada’s borders and uses resources separate from those provided by the provinces for domestic COVID-19 testing.
“Right now, that’s not going to happen,” Duclos said in French when asked on Monday to drop the test requirement for people flying to Canada.
“We are probably, in Canada, not even on top of infections,” he said, adding that the situation is getting worse in other countries as well.
Earlier Monday, Toronto’s Pearson Airport and Canada’s two largest airlines – Air Canada and WestJet – announced a open letter to Duclos and other officials and urges them to drop the test requirement for arriving passengers and move test resources to other settings, such as schools.
They said Ottawa should only test a random sample of travelers and also drop the mandatory isolation period for arriving travelers without COVID-19 symptoms, as they are also required to have a negative molecular test within 72 hours of their flight to Canada. .
“Now is the time to place scarce test resources where Canadians need them most: in our communities and not in our airports,” the letter said.
The government is paying three private companies up to $ 631 million for border testing services, according to the Office of the Minister of Public Services and Procurement Filomena Tassi. These contracts include mandatory testing for unvaccinated and unvaccinated people flying to Canada from abroad, a requirement that Ottawa announced on November 30, just days after the first cases of the highly contagious Omicron variant were reported in South Africa.
But some experts argue that the test requirement makes less sense now that Omicron is so prevalent in Canada that provincial test regimes cannot keep up with infections. Ontario, for example, decided on December 30th to limit molecular testing for people who show symptoms that are considered high risk or who work in high-risk environments.
Some have also pointed to the relatively low positivity among incoming air travelers, which was around 1.1 percent for the fully vaccinated and 1.6 percent for the partially vaccinated and unvaccinated from November 28 to December 25, according to. federal data.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, said last week that the arrival test was a “drain”About the laboratory capacity as a whole, but stopped calling for it to be dropped.
While Duclos ruled out the possibility of an impending change of claim, he left the door open to reconsider it as the pandemic changes.
“As the situation develops, we will, of course, continue to adjust our measures in all possible ways, including at the border,” he said.
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