No plans to ramp down on-arrival PCR testing for travellers any time soon: Duclos
Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, Jan. 17, 2022

No plans to ramp down on-arrival PCR testing for travellers any time soon: Duclos

TORONTO — The federal government isn’t looking to phase out PCR testing for inbound travellers any time soon.

In recent days the Canadian Travel & Tourism Roundtable as well as the chief medical officers from Air Canada, WestJet and Pearson Airport have called on the government to redeploy much-needed PCR tests into communities across Canada, instead of using them at the airport for arriving travellers.

In a briefing yesterday, a reporter followed up, asking Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos whether or not the federal government is considering ramping down on-arrival PCR tests.

“Currently no, that’s not what’s going to happen,” answered Duclos.

“We don’t think we’ve reached the peak [of omicron],” he said. “And when we look abroad we see the situation is worsening.”

Earlier in the briefing Duclos noted that active omicron variant cases around the world have doubled in the past two weeks: “The trend is of great concern.”

However Duclos did say that “as the situation evolves we will keep adjusting our measure in all sorts of ways including at the border.”

“NO GOOD PUBLIC HEALTH RATIONALE”

In their letter, sent yesterday to Minister Duclos as well as Dr. Theresa Tam and the Ontario government’s Christine Elliott and Dr. Kieran Moore, airline chief medical officers Dr. Jim Chung with Air Canada and Dr. Tammy McKnight with WestJet, as well as Dr. Edward Wasser, Chief Medical Officer – Toronto Pearson, said that as the government has ramped up testing at airports for international arrivals, “we have seen frontline workers struggle to get PCR tests” and lab processing capacity drop.

“As every person travelling to Canada must take a PCR test prior to getting on a plane inbound to Canada and must be fully vaccinated, there is no good public health rationale for a second test upon arrival,” say the doctors.

The letter urges the government to revert to surveillance arrival testing of international air passengers.

CONSUMER NEWS EDITORIALS ONSIDE 

Major consumer news outlets have weighed in on the PCR testing issue too.

An editorial in the Toronto Sun says Air Canada, WestJet and Pearson Airport “are right to call on the Canadian government to scale back the testing required for people travelling into Canada. The current rules for entry to Canada are over the top. The time is right to lower the burden placed on travellers.”

The Sun adds: “We keep piling on the rules but never eliminate any of the previous ones. That approach has to change. … It’s time to get back to normal. That includes easing the rules around travel.”

And in the Globe and Mail, today’s editorial says: “Canada should put in place an extensive program of random PCR screening of international arrivals, to act as an early warning system.

“But for now, this country’s quest to get through omicron is largely a domestic fight.

“It makes sense to concentrate our limited testing resources where they can do the most good.”