The news that fully vaccinated tourists will soon be allowed visit Canada is being greeted with enthusiasm, and a little uncertainty, by airport officials in New Brunswick.
The federal government announced Monday that it plans to reopen international borders, first to the U.S. on Aug 9 and to rest of world on Sept. 7.
However, it also announced that it plans to launch a new surveillance program at airports and land border crossings starting Aug. 9. Fully vaccinated individuals will not need a post-arrival test unless they have been randomly selected to complete a COVID-19 molecular test.
They'll also have to have a quarantine plan in case a border official finds they do not meet the necessary requirements, even if they are fully vaccinated.
Those details have left Bernard LeBlanc, president and CEO of Greater Moncton's Romeo LeBlanc International Airport, with some questions.
In an interview with Information Morning Moncton, LeBlanc said travellers are still confused about precisely what's required to get into Canada, and airports are unclear on precisely how they will help them navigate the process.
"We get calls every day from people unsure of what the regulations are" in terms of testing and quarantining, he said.
"We typically refer them to the province if they're coming our way, or if they're going to a different jurisdiction, to look up what that jurisdiction may require. … It's unclear because the rules are different everywhere."
LeBlanc would like to see a standardized approach to test and vaccine requirements applied across all jurisdictions eventually, and preferably before airports start welcoming international travellers in September.
"It would be beneficial for us to know sooner rather than later, because I'm not sure how it will be deployed in the airports," he said.
Uncertainty around random testing announcement
There's also uncertainty around the random sampling for testing announced Monday, and whether that would be co-ordinated by the airport or by the federal government.
"That's something that will be important because we don't know if there's infrastructure required for that," LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc expects these uncertainties will be sorted out in the coming weeks, and said that overall, the announcement is definitely welcome news.
He said traffic is already up "significantly" at the airport in the weeks since New Brunswick reopened its own borders — "from May to July, we've probably seen a doubling or tripling of daily traffic" — and is expected to take another jump when the province hits its 75 per cent vaccine milestone and all restrictions are lifted.
"People are feeling safer with travelling, so we're seeing the gradual increase," LeBlanc said. "And we're looking forward to more and more of that."
Traffic is also ramping up at Fredericton International Airport, communications officer Kate O'Rourke said Tuesday.
"Over the past month, we have seen passenger traffic increase steadily and we can see that New Brunswickers are eager to reconnect with family and friends and resume safely travelling again," O'Rourke said in an email.
O'Rourke said the airport welcomes the federal government's announcement on Monday, calling it "encouraging."
Regarding random testing, she said that a restricted number of airports are being allowed to accept international flights, and that she expects the testing "will take place at these points of entry into Canada."
"This is a good start to recovery of international traffic and will allow loved ones to reunite, as well as bring much needed business to our travel and tourism sectors," she said.