A very cautious easing of restrictions for sure, but looks like the mandatory quarantine rules are starting to get phased out

NACC, WestJet react to panel’s call to eliminate the mandatory hotel quarantine

TORONTO — The National Airlines Council of Canada and one of its members, WestJet, are among the industry players voicing their support for the elimination of the hotel quarantine rule and pre-departure testing for fully vaccinated travellers and other findings released yesterday afternoon by the federal government’s COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel.

The panel’s report, available here, says border measures “must evolve to reflect the experience gained and the global situation regarding VoCs [variants of concern] and vaccination.”

While it says international travellers should continue to be screened for positive cases of VoCs, and while additional short-term measures may be necessary as and when emerging VoCs are identified in Canada or internationally, the report also says that “the current requirement for all air travellers to quarantine in government-authorized accommodations should be discontinued.”

Travellers subject to quarantine should provide a suitable quarantine plan for approval and then stick to that plan, according to the report. If they don’t have a plan, then a designated quarantine facility is suitable.

“Border measures must be simple, easy to understand, equitable and consider both benefits and harms,” says the report.

 

The hotel quarantine rule, out of all of Canada’s travel restrictions over the past 15 months, has generated the most pushback from travellers and the travel industry. An Angus Reid poll released in April 2021 showed that while 58% of Canadians surveyed supported the hotel quarantine rule, only 30% said they thought it was effective.

Although the report came from the government’s own panel, so far there’s no indication the hotel quarantine requirement will be scrapped in the immediate future.

“The Government of Canada will continue to monitor and review all available data and scientific evidence to inform future border and travel measures, and will be prudent in its approach, keeping the health and safety of Canadians top of mind,” said a joint statement by Health Minister Patty Hajdu and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair, following the report’s release. “The Government of Canada will also consider the panel’s recommendations to determine how testing and quarantine strategies should evolve to address vaccination status.”

REACTION FROM THE NACC

National Airlines Council of Canada President and CEO Mike McNaney issued this statement:

“The report by the Panel contains a series of key recommendations including elimination of quarantine and pre-departure testing for fully vaccinated travellers, elimination of hotel quarantine for partially vaccinated or non- vaccinated travellers, reduction of quarantine duration overall to potentially 7 days instead of 14, and the effective use of rapid antigen testing.

“We strongly support these recommendations, and they are in-keeping with policy measures that are already being implemented by other countries as they release their plans for the safe re-start of aviation and travel.

“The overall report represents a wide series of data and science-based recommendations, prepared after months of review by an independent advisory panel consisting of experts in epidemiology, virology, as well as advanced data analytics.

“With vaccination rates continuing to climb aggressively in Canada, and as provincial governments come forth with their re-start plans, the federal government must move immediately to engage with industry and utilize the Panel’s report as the basis now to implement a clear and strong re-start strategy for Canada.

“We must get moving on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of Canadians in every region of the country whose livelihoods depend on travel and tourism.”

WE ASK THAT THE GOVERNMENT IMMEDIATELY PREPARE A SAFE RESTART PLAN”: SIMS

WestJet also issued a statement in the wake of the panel’s findings.

“Over the past 15 months, WestJet has been requesting science-based travel guidance and this report represents a responsible path forward,” said WestJet’s President and CEO Ed Sims.

“These findings are evidence-based recommendations that are proportionate and reduce risks.

“We ask that the government immediately prepare a safe restart plan based on this report and current global policies.

“With vaccinations ramping up, Canadians need to know they can travel once again.”

WestJet notes that outlined in the report and demonstrated successfully by the Alberta Testing Pilot Program, YVR’s Pre-Departure Testing Program and the McMaster Study, programs in which WestJet was an active participant, the relationship between testing and quarantine can safely evolve based on science, data and vaccination levels.

The company added that as vaccination rates continue to rise, the airline is optimistic that based off the report’s recommendations, Canadians can look forward to the easement of onerous border measures. WestJet says it will continue to advocate for policy changes that support Canada’s recovery and the restoration of more than 750,000 travel and tourism industry jobs.

“WestJet remains committed to building back even stronger for the betterment of all Canadians. A healthy WestJet will help lead a stronger recovery, increasing competition and consumer choice while lowering the cost of travel for Canadians, all while safely anchoring Canada’s vital air travel and tourism sectors.”