Ottawa, provinces mull expansion of COVID 19 tests for arriving American travellers
OTTAWA — It’s too early to say whether Canada’s latest requirement to test arriving air travellers for COVID-19 will be extended to include those coming from the United States, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said Wednesday.
The federal government is in discussions with the provinces on that issue but is ready to act to implement such a requirement for incoming U.S. air travellers if necessary, he said.
“We made a decision right now about testing every traveller coming in from around the world other than the U.S. We are having discussions,” Alghabra said.
“We need to be prepared and ready if we need to adjust that decision to include travellers from the U.S. We haven’t made that decision yet.”
Alghabra said a decision would be based on “the epidemiology in the U.S., around the world.”
Ottawa announced on Tuesday that all air travellers entering Canada, except for those coming from the U.S., would need to be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival at the airport and isolate until they get their results, even if they are fully vaccinated against the virus.
The stricter measures come as public health officials around the world warn of the potentially dangerous new Omicron variant of COVID-19.
The federal government has also closed its border to foreign nationals who have recently travelled through 10 African countries, including Nigeria.
Canada has now confirmed cases in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Alberta — all involving people who recently returned from Nigeria.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford was noncommittal on Wednesday about whether the testing requirement ought to be extended to include the U.S.
“The U.S. will have further discussions with the federal government and the other premiers, and the territories as well, to get their input, because it doesn’t just happen in Ontario. It’s right across the border,” said Ford.
Ford said he was pleased the federal government acted so quickly after he “implored them” to take decisive action after the new variant emerged.
As the work continues to determine whether COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the new variant, Ford said “the best thing we can do right now is to fortify our borders. Our best defence is keeping the variant out of our country.”
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube said the federal government reacted quickly with its border closures and new testing requirements.
As for the latter, he said: “now, what’s left to show us is when he’ll start that.”
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said Wednesday that pre-departure tests obtained in the 10 listed African countries are no longer valid and those returning to Canada after travelling through those nations must be tested in a third country.
He said mandatory testing for all air travellers, with the exception of those arriving from the U.S., “will be coming in the very short-term.”