The Ontario government is launching a voluntary and free border testing pilot program at Toronto Pearson International Airport for eligible international travellers returning to Ontario to help identify and stop the spread of COVID-19 in the province.
Details were provided on Wednesday (Jan. 6) at Pearson airport by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones.
"With over 60,000 international passengers coming into Pearson airport every week, we can't take any unnecessary risks," said Premier Ford. "That's why we're putting in place this new pilot program to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and respond to new threats like the recent strain of the virus we're seeing in an alarming number of countries without the same travel restrictions as the U.K. The test will be free for eligible travellers and I encourage everyone to take the test to protect yourselves and your loved ones."
Premier Ford has long called on the federal government to introduce COVID-19 testing in airports, expressing his frustration with Ottawa's for not moving fast enough on the initiative.
Starting Jan. 6, 2021, Ontario, in partnership with the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, will offer free and voluntary COVID-19 testing for international travellers arriving and staying in Ontario for at least 14 days.
This pilot program, called the Arrivals Testing Pilot Program, will be made available at both Terminal 1 and Terminal 3, administered by Switch Health.
"We are working closely with our industry partners to proceed on our commitment to implement testing at Pearson airport to help keep people safe and stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities," said Minister Elliott. "This airport testing pilot will test, trace and help isolate COVID-19 cases early and is a great step forward in protecting our borders."
Eligible travellers will be able pre-register for the program or proceed to get tested when they arrive at the airport.
Those choosing to participate in the pilot will receive a free, self-collected lab-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test and be supervised by a health care provider either in-person or by video as the traveller self-administers the test.
Switch Health has been delivering testing services in the Windsor-Leamington area and Peel Region and can support the needed volumes and timing requirements for the testing pilot, the province said.
Test results will be reported into Ontario's Lab Information System within 48 hours and local public health units will follow up on all positive tests.
14-day quarantine remains
Unlike Alberta's pilot project, which screens international travellers for COVID in exchange for a truncated quarantine period, travellers participating in Ontario's program will still be required to follow Canada's 14-day quarantine after arriving or returning to Canada, regardless if they have a negative or positive test.
However, Elliott said the next phase of the program would include a modified quarantine period for participants who test negative.
This program comes in addition to Canada's new pre-departure requirement for travellers flying to Canada to demonstrate proof of negative COVID-19 results from a test taken within three days prior to departure.
The new travel rule officially started Jan. 7.
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