Make point-of-entry testing mandatory to keep COVID low, Crosbie says
'We have to be careful, don't we?' Tory leader says
Opposition leader Ches Crosbie wants COVID-19 testing to be ramped up significantly for travellers coming into Newfoundland and Labrador, with a goal of keeping coronavirus infection rates low.
"We have to be careful, don't we?" Crosbie told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show on Monday.
Crosbie's call for expanded point-of-entry testing does not apply to the so-called "Atlantic bubble," in which residents of the four Atlantic provinces can travel without the need to self-isolate.
Crosbie wants Newfoundland and Labrador to provide testing to all other travellers who receive permission to enter the province for work or for other reasons approved through a travel exemption.
On Friday, Newfoundland and Labrador reported a new case of COVID-19: a woman who had flown from Toronto the previous day for approved work on the set of the Hudson & Rex TV series. The asymptomatic woman's infection was identified through a private testing firm.
Crosbie wants the public health system to provide such testing to anyone else coming in, especially since the new case involves a carrier who was not aware of the infection.
"We have lots of people coming into the island and Labrador who visit places like Alberta for work, where the outbreak is not nearly so controlled," said Crosbie, adding that family members could be better assured by stronger testing.
Crosbie says Newfoundland and Labrador should look at various systems used in different jurisdictions. He said some countries require testing two days before travel, as well as tests on arrival as well as a followup on a subsequent day to counter false positive and negative results.
"The risk here is from places that have a higher risk profile than we're enjoying at the moment," Crosbie said in an interview.
The St. John's International Airport Authority will be instituting mandatory temperature checks for travellers by the end of September.
'We need to be extra vigilant'
Meanwhile, Crosbie is also calling for an audit of how well Newfoundland and Labrador is processing people at points of entry, and then keeping track of them after arrival.
He says the province can learn much from places like New Zealand, Iceland and an unnamed Caribbean island, where a contact of his has been working.
As of Sunday, Newfoundland and Labrador had just one active case of COVID-19.
"We've achieved this hard-won victory whereby we can assume there's no COVID, there's no infection present in our community," Crosbie said. "The only way it's going to get in here is through these points of entry. So we need to be extra vigilant about that and [an] audit, I think, is a good idea."
Crosbie also thinks Newfoundland and Labrador should require incoming travellers to download a recently launched federal contact tracing app.
The app is not yet functional in the province, although last week Health Minister John Haggie said that functionality could be three or four weeks away.