Travellers from U.K. arriving in Alberta 'strongly encouraged' to get COVID-19 test
People who were taking part in testing pilot will have to quarantine after all
Anyone who has been in the United Kingdom in the past 14 days should get tested for COVID-19, whether they're symptomatic or not, the Alberta government said Monday.
The announcement comes after Ottawa joined several European nations by halting flights from the U.K. on Sunday in an effort to prevent a new, potentially more contagious strain of the coronavirus from spreading to this country.
The province also said travellers from the UK who are participating in Alberta's border pilot rapid-test program must immediately quarantine, whether they've had a negative test or not.
Travellers will be contacted directly by Alberta Health Services to book a test.
"A variant of COVID-19 has been identified in the United Kingdom with mutations that may cause increased infectivity. No variants with all the same mutations have been identified in Canada to date," said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health.
"Changes in a virus are to be expected, and there is no current evidence that this variant causes more severe disease. Alberta's current public health measures are effective against it, but we are acting out of an abundance of caution."
The pilot testing program, a partnership between Alberta and the federal government, allows eligible international travellers to take a COVID-19 test at one of two border crossings in the province — the Calgary International Airport and the Coutts land border crossing.
Should tests come back negative, travellers can leave quarantine as long as they remain in Alberta for the first 14 days. They must also get a second test six or seven days after arrival at a participating community pharmacy.
But with Monday's announcement, anyone who was on a flight from the U.K. and had been participating in the pilot program now must nevertheless quarantine until 14 days have passed from their arrival.
And anyone just arriving in Alberta who had been in the United Kingdom in the past 14 days must quarantine and cannot participate in the border pilot program.
"Testing is strongly encouraged for all persons in Alberta who have been in the United Kingdom in the last 14 days, whether they have symptoms or not," the province said in a release.