Travel agent blasts long wait times for PCR test results for returning clients

Travel agent blasts long wait times for PCR test results for returning clients

SASKATOON — The retail travel sector has already spent close to 2 years guiding clients through an increasingly bewildering set of rules and protocols for travel outside Canada.

Now one agency owner is also advocating on her clients’ behalf to lessen the impact of long PCR test result delays amid the omicron surge.

Jamie Milton, a partner with Uniglobe Carefree Travel Group in Saskatoon, SK, has alerted her MP, Kevin Waugh, Saskatoon-Grasswood, about the unwieldy delays facing travellers – delays that have people who are fully vaccinated forcing to self-isolate for far longer than people testing positive for COVID.

As Milton points out, the government of Canada’s website makes mention of a 72-hour timeline for PCR test results for travellers arriving at Canada’s airports.

Wait times for PCR test results skyrocketed in late December as labs scrambled to keep up with demand.

In her letter to MP Waugh, Milton says she has clients who were still waiting for test results after 8 days. And in at least one case, clients were told their test results were invalidated because of the time elapsed, forcing another round of testing, and waiting:

“As noted on that website, travellers should expect to self isolate up to 72 hours.

“For travellers arriving at the Saskatoon Airport, we have reports of several clients still waiting for results that were sent in 8 days ago.

“For  travellers arriving through the Calgary airport and given the take home test kit, we have clients who are also still waiting 8 days after testing and who are now being told their sample is no longer good and they have to mail them a second test kit and they are expected to isolate for another 5-8 days while they wait for the kit to be delivered, taken, sent back and processed.”

As Milton points out, the new standard for isolation for positive COVID cases in Saskatchewan and several other provinces, and also as per updated guidance from the CDC, is now 5 days.

“To have fully vaccinated Canadian travellers required to isolate for several days longer than someone with a positive COVID test, due simply to the labs and airports being incapable of fulfilling the volume of tests, is placing  an unnecessary burden on our fully vaccinated citizens,” says Milton.

“They are missing work, missing income, missing school and  missing important events. If the labs cannot process the tests in the 72-hour time frame promised by the government, the travellers should be allowed to move about freely as they have completed the obligations asked of them.”

Milton also sent a second letter to Waugh asking that Canadians who test positive for COVID when outside of Canada should be allowed to return to Canada after 5 days, not 14.

“The CDC and now several Canadian provinces have lowered the required self isolation period after a positive  COVID-19 test to 5 days. If this is to be the new standard of care and protocols within Canada, is it only fair that  the same protocol be applied to Canadians testing positive outside of Canada,” says Milton.

“Canadians should be allowed to board an airplane and return to Canada 5 days after a positive test, vs 14 days. The 14 day quarantine puts Canadians in destination in a position of financial hardship, as well as being isolated  in a foreign country, often without access to fresh air or exercise or regular healthy meals for a period that is almost 3 times as long as the new protocols being adhered to in Canada and the United States.”

Both of Milton’s letter to Waugh were also sent to Prime Minister Trudeau, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Jolie and Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos.