Waiting for details on Pearson COVID test trial but early indications look good
Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Deputy Premier Christine Elliott on Dec. 2, 2020

Waiting for details on Pearson COVID test trial but early indications are good

TORONTO — Premier Doug Ford says the Ontario government is working to reduce the quarantine time for travellers arriving at Canada’s busiest airport, which would provide a major boost for the Canadian travel industry amid extremely challenging times.

‘We’re working with the federal government right now at Toronto Pearson to reduce the downtime,” Ford said at his daily briefing yesterday. “Once you come back you have to quarantine for 14 days. We want to knock that down, similar to what they’re doing out in Alberta. They’re doing a trial, we’re doing a trial.”

The COVID test trial at Calgary Airport, announced Oct. 23 and up and running days later, reduces the 14-day quarantine for arriving international passengers to YYC with a two-test procedure.

As long as passengers get a negative result within 48 hours, they just have to go back for a re-test in 6 – 7 days. Canadian travellers returning from international destinations can follow the same protocol with the voluntary tests, but cannot travel outside Alberta for 14 days.

The idea is that the 14-day quarantine, one of the biggest challenges for getting travel and tourism restarted in the wake of COVID-19, can at least be shortened, and one day soon potentially eliminated, with COVID-19 testing for arriving passengers.

YYC’s project is backed by the government of Alberta and Calgary International Airport, in partnership with the federal government. Within weeks WestJet announced it was seeing a promising uptick in bookings for flights in and out of Calgary.

When the YYC project launched in October Ford said he would be keeping “a really sharp eye” on the initiative.

Air Canada had started to lay the groundwork the month before at Pearson Airport, with its voluntary COVID-19 testing process for arriving international passengers.

A couple of weeks after the YYC trial launch, Ford confirmed that he wanted to use COVID-19 testing to reduce the 14-day quarantine for travellers arriving by air into Ontario. At his Nov. 10 briefing, he said he was prepared to look at implementing it on a provincial level, despite the fact that airports are a federal jurisdiction, if the federal government won’t help out.

Now it looks as though COVID-19 testing might indeed be on the way for Pearson, normally Canada’s highest-volume airport by far, with more than 50 million passengers in 2019.

“If you can land, and you can get tested, and you get tested again 5 to 7 days later, and they both come out negative, you should be able to go on your way,” Ford said, adding, “I’m really pushing it.”

Toronto morning show Breakfast Television today pointed to ads posted by Canada HealthLabs looking for assistants to join the COVID-19 Testing Support Team: “Canada HealthLabs will be managing a pilot project for COVID-19 testing, at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, and will require individuals to assist with COVID testing support.”

The post was marked ‘Urgently hiring’.