Canada’s timeline for launching the COVID-19 test on arrival for most travelers is still unclear

Passengers arrive at Toronto Pearson International Airport on October 15, 2021. On Wednesday, the Canadian Airport Council said it has not yet seen the details of the new rules on arrival tests that its members are expected to implement.Fred Lum / The Globe and Mail

The federal government has not yet said when its new requirement for COVID-19 testing for all travelers arriving in Canada from countries other than the United States will take effect.

On Tuesday, the federal government extended its travel ban on foreign nationals to 10 countries and announced that Canadians arriving from those countries must be tested in a third country for COVID-19 before gaining access to Canada. It also said it will require that most travelers arriving in Canada be tested on arrival and isolate themselves at home until they get a negative result.

The first two rules have already come into force, but on Wednesday Minister of Public Security Marco Mendocino could not say when the arrival test will begin, other than to say it will start in the “very short term.”

The rapidly changing rules create confusion for travelers. Since Friday, the government has tightened restrictions on international travel twice as it seeks to curb the spread of the new COVID-19 variant of concern, called Omicron. The government has announced bans on foreign nationals to 10 countries in Africa: Nigeria, Malawi, Egypt, South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini and Namibia.

On Wednesday, the Canadian Airport Council said it has not yet seen the details of the new test on arrival rules that members are expected to implement. Council President Daniel-Robert Gooch said in a press release that he hopes the federal government will work with airlines and airports in the next few hours to ensure that the rules for tests on arrival are “operationally feasible.”

“The only operationally feasible way to test 100 percent of international arriving travelers – from all countries except the United States – is to provide off-site tests, such as those that travelers can take in their homes or elsewhere for self-isolation.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the rules will be set in place as soon as possible.

“As soon as we are able to do that in the coming days, we will do it. We already did random screening. What we are doing is increasing it so that it will be done for everyone. We expect this to be done in the coming days or weeks. “

Details on how the arrival test will be performed are not yet available. Mr. Mendicino said the government will “make sure our airports, our frontline officers can handle the crowd.” Data from the Public Health Agency of Canada show that more than 200,000 commercial air travelers flew into the country each week in November.

Canada’s Omicron travel ban and rules for proof of vaccination explained

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said test and quarantine measures are very important given the lack of detail and the “major concern” surrounding the Omicron variant, but he criticized the government for “lack of consistency and clarity at a time when it is , we need. “

“We need a clear plan about what the test should be and how it will work,” he said.

Mr. Singh also said there has been no clear explanation as to why the US has been exempted from the improved test regime and why foreign nationals from other countries who have identified Omicron will not also be banned.

Mr. Mendicino said the government will continue to keep an eye on advice from public health officials to see if the rule of testing on arrival should also be extended to travelers from the United States. On Tuesday, he said the federal government is working with the prime minister to see, “how we could expand test capacity to include all travelers from all countries.”

On Wednesday, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce said changes to any of the rules governing the border between Canada and the United States should be coordinated. The two countries should have “similar standards across borders, regardless of direction or mode of transportation,” said Mark Agnew, a senior vice president of the chamber.

Beth Potter, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, said Wednesday that health and safety for everyone, including travelers, are paramount. The association is monitoring the situation, Ms. added. Potter.

“We are looking to get our industry up and running again, but also understand the reality and unpredictability of this virus,” she said. “This is another example where we will have to turn around while learning to live and operate in a world where COVID exists.”

The federal government has also asked the National Advisory Committee on Immunization to “provide prompt guidance” on whether booster shots are required for more people given the new variant.

Canada will have an adequate supply of booster shots if the committee decides that they are necessary for anyone eligible to receive the vaccines.

“There is no problem about the amount of vaccines, we have lots of vaccines for boosters in Canada, we are receiving more into the new year,” said Mr. Trudeau. “We are fine in terms of quantity, the question is what is the best recommendation for people to get hose amplifiers and when.”

From Wednesday morning, the next meeting of the advisory group is scheduled for 7 December.

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