OTTAWA – COVID-19 testing and isolation requirements on new arrivals may apply at any time to all air travelers arriving from outside Canada other than the United States, according to Health Minister Jean-Yves. Duclos.
Speaking to reporters on his way into the House of Commons, Duclos said the new policy has been directed to be implemented, and it is now up to each airport where international flights are landing to get logistics.
“There are airports in Canada that can start doing this really quickly because they have extra capacity, other airports will take a little longer,” he said.
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On Tuesday, the federal government announced that international travelers would soon be tested at the airport when they land in Canada, on top of an existing pre-departure testing requirement.
Now, Duclos said that if testing on arrival is not possible, passengers will be given a take-home test.
“While they wait for that test to become known, they isolate themselves and when they test negative, they can move out of isolation,” he said.
According to the government, those who have been vaccinated will have to isolate until they get a negative result, and those who have not been vaccinated will have to isolate for a full 14 days and get tested on the first day and eighth day of their quarantine .
While it currently takes an average of one day to get test results, Duclos said the “service standard” is three days and it could take longer to get results once the policy is fully operational, with the expectation that With that the officials will conduct around 32,000 tests per day.
According to the minister, rolling it out without a specific start date could lead to some airports testing on arrival before others.
“This is a significant change. We are increasing testing capacity by more than 50 percent, so depending on local conditions, it could take longer than what has been seen in recent weeks,” Duclos said.
Participating in a caucus meeting on Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in French that the government aims to implement the policy as soon as possible, given the testing capacity needed at all airports currently accepting international passengers. Has happened. He suggested that this could happen within the coming days or weeks.
undecided on including us
There remains uncertainty over whether the policy will be expanded to include those arriving from the United States.
Transportation Minister Omar Alghabara said talks have begun with provinces on the recently announced Omicron-powered travel measures, but no decision has yet been taken on whether the policy will roll out to US travelers, but the government is ready if needed. Is.
“Depending on the changing situation, depending on the conditions in the US … it’s still very fluid but if circumstances change we will change our decision,” he said.
The United States on Wednesday confirmed its first case of the Omicron variant, in a returning traveler who had been fully vaccinated. Canada currently has seven confirmed cases in four provinces, all found in people who had recently traveled to Nigeria.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has voiced his support for a new slate of border measures, and said all options are on the table when it comes to expanding restrictions.
concern about capacity
While the Canadian Airports Council praised the speed of the government’s decision to impose new Omicron-signaling restrictions, President Daniel-Robert Gooch expressed concern over the feasibility of testing nearly everyone arriving from abroad given current travel rates. are doing.
“The only operationally-viable way to test 100 per cent of international incoming travelers from all countries except the US is to provide off-site testing, such as those that passengers can take to their home or other point of self-isolation. They said in a statement. “We urge the Government of Canada to work with Canadian airports and air carriers in the coming hours to ensure these measures, which have not been looked at in detail, remain operationally are viable.”
Asked whether staff at airports would be able to handle the sweeping new testing order in view of the coming holiday travel season, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said the government “will not spend any.”
“We will make sure that our airports, our frontline officers can handle the volume,” Mendicino said.
This testing policy on arrival differs from the more comprehensive restrictions that are currently in place for travelers who have recently traveled to 10 African countries: Nigeria, Malawi, Egypt, South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini.