Ottawa Should "No Longer Single out Travel:" Industry Reacts to Return of Mandatory Random Airport Testing

COVID testThe Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable says it is "disappointed" with the federal government's announcement on 14JUL that mandatory random arrival testing for fully vaccinated travellers will be re-introduced as of 19JUL.

As of that date, as OpenJaw reported 14JUL, fully vaccinated pax arriving at Canada's major airports - YVR, YYC, YUL, and YYZ - may be randomly selected to take a COVID-19 test completed outside via an in-person appointment at select testing provider locations and pharmacies, or a virtual appointment for a self-swab test. Should the test be positive, pax must isolate for 10 days starting from the date of the test result.

In a statement, the federal government said that moving testing outside of airports will support testing for travellers arriving by air while still being able to monitor and quickly respond to new variants of concern.

"Unnecesary and Unhelpful"

Canada's travel industry isn't buying it.

"The Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable is disappointed with the federal government's decision," said the Roundtable, a coalition of representatives across Canada's travel industry. "As our industry works with government, agencies and partners to combat wait times and delays, this announcement marks a step backward that unfairly targets Canada's tourism sector and negatively impacts Canadian and international travellers."

The group highlighted that the federal government should replace mandatory testing with other "more effective ways" to assess community spread of the virus and track variants, such as wastewater testing.

"The reimposition of these measures is an unnecessary and unhelpful step backward that continues to put Canada out of alignment with its international partners and singles out air travel as the only consumer activity in the country with stringent health measures," the Roundtable concluded.

The National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC) also shared a statement on Twitter, calling on the federal government to "no longer single out travel as the only consumer activity with excessive public health requirements."

While the Council did welcome the step to move testing outside of airports, they also said the federal government to use alternative measures for tracking COVID-19 community spread, suggesting the use of wastewater testing.

Will Random Mandatory Testing Lead to Delays at Airports?

John Gradek, a former Air Canada Director and the co-ordinator of the aviation management program at McGill University’s School of Continuing Studies, told the Star he doesn’t anticipate current airport delays will worsen as a result of re-introduction of mandatory random testing. Gradek highlighted that most delays have been the result of long lines to reach a Canada Border Services Agent at Customs.

“I don’t think it’s going to add a lot of time” to processing, he said.

In a statement, the Canadian Airports Council welcomed the move to have testing outside of airports. “During the temporary pause on testing, arriving passengers were processed more quickly and efficiently, which until then had been a major pain point,” the statement read.

However, Gradek said random mandatory tests may make it difficult to sell Canada as an attractive destination to international travellers. “People are going to start wondering why Canada has this additional level of testing and public health measures that other countries don’t have,” he said.

Even still, Gradek doesn't predict the issue will impact travel significantly at this point, saying people are not likely to cancel trips due to the re-introduction of the measure.

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