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WestJet & Air Canada side by side at YXX (Photo: Wikimedia Commons | YXXOps)

Negative Covid-19 Test Required for Airline Passenger Arrivals into Canada

In a further blow to the aviation industry, the Canadian government has announced that inbound air travelers to the country will need to present a negative Coronavirus test prior to departing for Canada. The requirement for the test will be in addition to a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine period upon arrival and will come into effect in the New Year through a specific date and a process that has yet to be announced. Currently, Canada only permits citizens and returning residents with few exemptions to arrive into the country and the government deters non-essential travel.

Countries have been using a mix of preventive measures to minimize and eliminate the spread of covid-19 within their communities from external sources. State-managed quarantine has proven successful for virus management in countries such as Australia and New Zealand but this is available only to returning citizens and those exempted by government agencies.

However, with coronavirus cases surging in the northern hemisphere governments have been coming under increasing pressure to control the virus. Prior to Wednesday’s announcement from the Canadian government, Reuters reported that Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé was advocating for those returning to Canada to be tested prior to departure. Other Canadian provinces have been advocating the adoption of airport testing upon arrival which has been trialed at Alberta’s Calgary International airport since November. The Alberta trial allowed travelers who tested negative upon arrival and negative 6 or 7 days afterward to have a less restrictive quarantine period.

Wednesday’s Canadian government announcement appears to have taken the country’s aviation industry by surprise. The National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC) president Mike McNaney is cited on CTV News as saying that the decision ‘was made without consultation’. The NACC which advocates for the Canadian commercial airline industry counts senior executives of WestJet, Air Canada, Air Transat and Jazz on its board of directors.

In the statement released on the council’s website, Mr. McNaney said: “Today’s announcement occurred without prior coordination with industry, and with many major operational and communication details still to be determined.  At a broader level, the announcement only addresses one element of the path forward – the utilization of testing to help further protect public health.  We strongly believe it must also be utilized in conjunction with measures to reduce quarantine levels, as is being done in countries all around the world.”

Industry bodies have been lobbying governments to seek alternative measures to 14-day quarantine periods that are cited as further restricting passenger demand. In November airline advocacy organization IATA (International Air Transport Association) called 14-day quarantine periods ‘the least effective policy option at preventing Covid-19 from entering the community, compared to all forms of passenger testing’. This statement was in relation to a U.K. government self-isolation mandate for passenger arrivals from countries not on the U.K.’s travel corridor list. The U.K. government has since reduced the self-isolation period for those arriving from non-exempt countries to 10 days but still has no testing process in place for all international arrivals.

John Flett
John Flett
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