Politics

Public health measures for airport arrivals to remain until at least October: government

The government announced that public health measures for airport arrivals in Canada, such as the provision of information through the ArriveCAN app, are likely to remain in effect until at least October.

Random testing on arrival suspended until mid-July while government moves testing out of airports

People wait at the arrivals section of Terminal 1 of Toronto Pearson International Airport on Thursday, June 9, 2022. (Esteban Cuevas/CBC)

The government announced Wednesday that public health requirements for travellers arriving in Canada, including use of the ArriveCAN app, are expected to be in place until at least September 30, 2022.

"As we move into the next phase of our COVID-19 response, it is important to remember that the pandemic is not over. We must continue to do all that we can to keep ourselves and others safe from the virus," Jean-Yves Duclos, the minister of health, said in a news release.

"As we have said all along, Canada's border measures will remain flexible and adaptable, guided by science and prudence."

The release also says the suspension of random COVID-19 testing for airport arrivals will be extended until mid-July.

The suspension started on June 11 and was set to expire on July 1. When it announced the suspension, the government said when testing returns they will no longer be done at airports. There's also a suspension on the vaccine mandate for travellers, which started on June 20.

PHAC said it's still working on moving tests out of airports and into stores, pharmacies and virtual appointments.

"Moving testing outside of airports will allow Canada to adjust to increased traveller volumes while still being able to monitor and quickly respond to new variants of concern, or changes to the epidemiological situation," the release reads.

At a news conference earlier Wednesday at Pearson International Airport in Mississauga, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said the government is working on the details.

"We seem to be needing a little bit more time to address the logistics of moving it off the airport," Alghabra said.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said at a news conference Wednesday that the government is still in the process of figuring how to move random COVID-19 testing for arrivals out of airports. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

He added that testing is an important tool to keep tabs on the virus and any potential variants that may emerge.

"Random testing for COVID is critical to maintain an early warning system for our public health system," he said.

"We're following the advice of experts to continue to ensure we're receiving some type of data about the type of infection importation into our country."

The PHAC news release says unvaccinated travellers are still required to go through a 14-day quarantine after arrival, with mandatory COVID-19 tests on day one and day eight. Random testing will continue to be in place at land border crossings, and travellers must still provide information through the ArriveCAN app within 72 hours before their arrival in Canada.

The app has come under criticism from some business associations and border mayors, who says it acts as a deterrent for some travellers.

Ongoing issues 'unacceptable:' Alghabra

Alghabra defended his government's approach to addressing ongoing delays at some airports, saying it is focused on hiring more staff for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). 

He also pointed to the government's suspension of some public health measures, such as the vaccine mandate for air and train travel and random arrival testing.

On top of long line ups and flight cancellations at airports, travellers have expressed frustration about lost and delayed luggage.

Alghabra said he's spoken with a number of large airports and airlines about the problems.

"What we're seeing today is while many of those CATSA and CBSA issues have significantly improved, we continue to see delays, cancellations and luggage issues," Alghabra said.

"Those are unacceptable issues. The government is doing everything we can, and we've done everything we can within our abilities, and now we're working with airlines and airports to address those remaining issues."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Richard Raycraft

Web writer and producer

Richard is a web writer with CBC News and an associate producer with CBC Radio. He's worked at CBC in London, Ont., Toronto, Windsor, Kitchener-Waterloo and Ottawa.

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