The results are in: Ontario COVID-19 testing pilot program at Toronto Pearson caught nearly 150 infected travellers

·3 min read
The results are in: Ontario COVID-19 testing pilot program at Toronto Pearson caught nearly 150 infected travellers

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Ontario’s pilot COVID-19 testing program from travellers at Toronto's Pearson International Airport found that of the over 6,800 voluntary participants, 146 people or 2.26 per cent, tested positive.

The program began on Jan. 6, in partnership with the Greater Toronto Airports Authority. Incoming international travellers staying in Ontario for at least 14 days could participate. When travellers arrive at the Toronto airport, they self-administer a COVID-19 test under the supervision of Switch Health tele-nurse. Results are returned with 24 to 48 hours.

“While we've made steady progress through this pilot program, thousands of people continue to pass through Pearson every week without being tested, creating a real risk to all Ontarians,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said in a statement. “That's why, in addition to pre-departure testing, we're asking the federal government to adopt mandatory testing upon arrival for all international travellers and impose a temporary ban on flights coming from countries where new COVID-19 strains are being detected.”

On Tuesday, Ford said the Toronto airport sees 30,000 people flying into the province every single week on international flights. The premier said that it is “absolutely critical” that the federal government adds testing upon arrival for anyone entering Canada.

“Please get mandatory testing, it’s absolutely critical to protect our border,” Ford said. “I can’t figure out for the life of me why we aren’t testing every single person coming through this airport [and] the land crossings.”

Currently, Canada requires anyone travelling to the country by air to get a COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours prior to their departure flight.

“Until vaccines are widely available, we all need to do our part to stop the spread of this virus and that means tighter controls at our border.”

The Ontario government continues to call on the federal government to “strengthen enforcement of quarantine measures,” including the introduction of isolation hotels to ensure the 14-day quarantine rules for incoming travellers is being followed.

The provincial government also wants Canada to impose a temporary travel ban on direct flights from countries where new COVID-19 variants are detected, including Brazil and and Portugal.

When the B117 variant was identified in the U.K., the federal government imposed a temporary travel ban on incoming flights from the country, which came to an end when Canada introduced the requirement of a pre-departure negative COVID-19 test result to come to Canada.

Ontario believes the federal government should also “consider” banning flights with multiple connections in countries with any known variants of COVID-19.

“Ontario's border testing pilot program is helping us to trace and isolate COVID-19 cases early among travellers arriving in Ontario," a statement from Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott reads. “In the meantime, we are in continuous contact with our federal partners to advocate for further measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, protect our borders, and most importantly, the health and safety of Ontarians.”

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