Last week, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos told the media that mandatory screening of all passengers from countries other than the US would start very soon. However, no details were provided.
On December 3, the minister sought to clarify new complex travel requirements related to COVID-19. Speaking to reporters, here’s how Duclos describes starting the program:
why inTravelers from countries other than the US need to complete an arrival test
Once a fully vaccinated passenger arrives at a Canadian airport from a non-US airport, they will be cleared by a public health nurse or have a home test.
This traveler must then self-isolate at home or at their designated quarantine destination (such as a hotel) while awaiting test results. It may take up to three days to get a result.
If that traveler tests negative, they are free to get out of isolation and move around as they normally would. If the test result is positive, he must remain in quarantine for 14 days.
If the passenger has a connecting flight, they are surveyed or take a home test, then proceed to their final destination.
For example, if a passenger from Hong Kong arrives in Vancouver to catch a connecting flight to Kelowna, that traveler will be tested or collected at home in Vancouver before going on the connecting flight. This passenger must then self-isolate in Kelowna while awaiting test results.
Travelers who receive a home test take the test themselves while using a video link with a nurse at a private company, such as Dynacare, LifeLabs or Switch Health, to ensure proper performance. The sample is then mailed to the laboratory. Instructions are included in the test kit distributed at the airport.
The federal government covers all costs associated with access tests.
Travelers from the United States are currently exempt
None of these testing requirements apply to fully vaccinated travelers arriving directly from a destination in the United States.
For example, a fully vaccinated traveler traveling nonstop from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Montreal would only need to take the required molecular test prior to departure (72 hours prior to departure for Canada). He will not need to take a landing test in Montreal.
However, Duclos said US policy could change over time.
“With COVID-19, we want to protect the health and safety of people as much as possible,” he said. If we have to impose additional measures at the border, we will. “
However, the Arrival Control System does not apply if a traveler from abroad calls at a US airport with a flight to Canada.
For example, if a traveler arrives from Paris in Atlanta to catch a flight to Toronto, that traveler will be treated like a passenger on a non-stop flight from Paris to Toronto, which means they will have to go through the mandatory arrival test process.
“Let me be very clear. All travelers must be tested on arrival. We will not be able to test all targeted travelers overnight. It will take a few days,” Duclos said.
Duclos said the federal government is working with labs and regional health authorities to increase the screening capacity needed to treat the tens of thousands of travelers arriving in Canada from abroad each month.
According to the minister, the laboratory capacity devoted to processing these tests has increased by 50% since Wednesday, allowing technicians to conduct tests at a faster pace.
No more home tests at specific airports
Some airports will be better equipped to clear passengers, Duclos said, while others, which are more crowded, will need time to reserve space to begin this massive health operation.
Ottawa airport operators pay to rely on departure tests.
CBC reported that Daniel Robert Goetsch, president of the Airports Council of Canada, said it simply wasn’t possible to test all arriving passengers in terminals at the country’s largest airports.
“Using off-site testing, such as home testing, will be key to the success of this business. Our members have told us that it will not be possible to process 100% of international travelers on-site.”
Goch added that Canadian airports are questioning how safe it is to cram thousands of passengers into a confined area at an airport not specifically designed for sanitary measures. So they prefer to go for these tests which are conducted “in the safety and comfort of their home or elsewhere”.
Nina Slok, OpenJaw
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