IATA Condemns Ottawa's Return to Airport Arrival Testing

departure arrival airport covid testingThe International Air Transport Association (IATA) is calling on the Canadian government to "urgently discontinue" current COVID-19 related travel restrictions, calling them "out of step" with the global trend of lifting travel restrictions and are partly to blame for ongoing travel delays and disruptions affecting the country.

The statement from the Association, which represents around 290 global airlines, comes shortly after Ottawa announced that the return of mandatory random COVID-19 testing for fully vaccinated travellers.

As reported by Open Jaw, beginning Tuesday, 19JUL, 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 the airport 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.

IATA's statement follows harsh words from Canada's own travel and tourism industry, which calls the return of random mandatory COVID-19 testing a "step backwards." The Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable, a coalition of representatives across Canada’s travel industry, says the move "unfairly targets" Canada's travel and tourism sector.

The National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC) also called on the federal government to “no longer single out travel as the only consumer activity with excessive public health requirements.”

Canada Now a "Total Outlier" in Managing COVID-19 and Travel

“Canada has become a total outlier in managing COVID-19 and travel. While governments across the globe are rolling back restrictions, the Government of Canada is reinstating them,” said Peter Cerda, IATA’s Regional Vice President for the Americas.

Cerda says that Canada should follow the lead of its peers, such as Australia, which had tough travel restrictions during the height of the pandemic but now has lifted those measures.

“Rather than following this example and enabling travel and tourism to recover, those in power in Canada believe that throwing more red tape at the pandemic is the way forward,” said Cerda.

IATA'S Wish List for Ottawa:

Remove random testing of international arriving passengers

IATA highlights that a 10 day isolation period for a test result is twice as long as the average isolation period recommend by any provincial or territorial health authority in Canada and once again "singles out travelers as compared to the rest of the population."

End the vaccination requirement for international travel

As only basic immunization and no booster shots are required to be considered fully vaccinated, IATA says the vaccination mandate is "in essence obsolete." In addition, the proof of vaccination is no longer used in everyday life in Canada. The Association highlights that ending this travel-related mandate would remove the need for the "manual and time-intensive" documentation check at flight origins outside Canada and during immigration upon arrival.

Use ArriveCAN solely as an entry tool for customs

Should the vaccination mandate for travel be removed, IATA suggests the ArriveCAN app to be used solely for customs and immigration purposes and not for validating COVID-19 related health and vaccination information, saying that its current purpose is "slowing down" border processing speeds.

In addition, IATA says airlines are now being asked to provide a list of passengers who have not completed ArriveCAN not later than one hour after the departure of an international flight to Canada, which is "tying up" critical staff at a time when resources are "already stretched to the limit."

Ending Mask Mandates

IATA says mask mandates at airports and on aircraft "need to be withdrawn," especially since they are no longer in place in most public settings in Canada, including public transport and sporting venues.

“Maintaining outdated COVID-19 restrictions contributes to the delays passengers are experiencing at major Canadian international gateways. Governments need to ensure that travel restrictions are designed to address today’s environment, not the environment of the previous two years. Now is the time for the Government of Canada to join its counterparts around the world and remove unnecessary and outdated measures,” said Cerda.

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