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More details about COVID-19 testing for air travellers expected today

Transport Minister Marc Garneau is expected to provide more details today about the new requirement for air passengers to test negative for COVID-19 before entering Canada.

Cabinet ministers announced Wednesday that air passengers will soon need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before arriving in the country.

Under the new rule, travellers must receive a negative result on a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test — the standard nose swab test for detecting active COVID-19 infections — within 72 hours of boarding a flight back to Canada.

But many details — including the date the new rule will be in force — were still being sorted out when the policy was announced this week.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said Garneau — who is in talks with airlines and officials in his department — is expected to share more details today.

Tim Perry is president of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) Canada, which represents pilots at 15 airlines. He said the industry was caught off-guard by the policy change.

“[Wednesday’s] announcement not only fell short of providing any concrete details but was made with little to no consultation with key airline industry stakeholders, including ALPA Canada, prior to its release,” he said in a media statement.

“The statement once again underscores the federal government’s lack of appreciation for the importance of working with the aviation sector to create good policy as we weather the COVID-19 pandemic together.”

Minister of Transport Marc Garneau is expected to reveal more details about the testing changes today. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

LeBlanc said it will be up to travellers to arrange for PCR tests themselves, given that those embarking on non-essential trips overseas have chosen already to flout public health guidelines.

“The government of Canada obviously is not in a position to set up in hotels or all-inclusive resorts or Canadian consulates,” he said in an interview with CBC News Wednesday.

The new rule does not replace Canada’s mandatory 14-day quarantine period for international travellers, which remains in force.

Travellers who are unable to procure tests before their flights home won’t be stranded abroad, LeBlanc said. Immediately upon their return to Canada, he said, those passengers will be required to isolate at federally-approved sites until they obtain negative test results and meet other quarantine commitments.

The minister said it would be “irresponsible” for any Canadian traveller to sidestep the testing requirements.

The federal change comes as Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips remains under fire over his decision to travel to the Caribbean island of St. Barts for a personal vacation earlier this month.


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