The Canadian government is sitting on “millions upon millions” of unused rapid tests that could go towards testing travellers arriving at airports and land borders, says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but it’s up to the provinces to reach out and make it happen.
Speaking to media on Friday (April 30), Trudeau was referring specifically to Ontario Premier Doug Ford, one of Canada’s most vocal critics of the federal government for not doing enough to clamp down on border controls.
Premier Ford has previously called for more testing at land borders between provinces to halt the spread of COVID-19 and its variants.
“These are measures provinces can impose themselves,” Trudeau said on Friday, speaking in French.
On implementing rapid testing at airports – a measure that many within the travel industry have long been calling for – it would be up to Premier Ford to “lead” on such an initiative, the Prime Minister said.
“We have, in our possession, millions upon millions of rapid tests that are being under-utilized across the country and would happily furnish some to Ontario, or any other provinces, that want to test people on arrival,” Trudeau said. “But Ontario would have to work out the logistics."
Tightening domestic travel measures is “something that has been done before,” Trudeau said, citing Atlantic Canada’s travel bubble and measures taken with in the Arctic territories.
“They didn’t require the support, intervention, or the permission of the federal government to do it – although we were happy to support them in any ways we needed to,” Trudeau said. “Ontario has lots of tools and we will continue to work with them on bringing in the right tools to keep people safe through this difficult third wave.”
Calls for hotel quarantine at land border
The Prime Minister's remarks came after the Ford government, on Thursday, sent a letter to federal officials, requesting that they expand the mandatory three-night hotel quarantine policy to land borders as well.
Trudeau, on Friday, didn’t indicate that his government would do that, citing “fundamental” differences between travellers arriving at the land border versus arriving at the airport.
"Anyone arriving at a land border, arriving from the United States, has been tested over the last three days by the U.S. and has been [there] for at least two weeks because of their own quarantine measures," Trudeau said, speaking in French. "So it’s not the same thing arriving directly by an international flight into one of our airports."
Only five per cent of travellers are entering the country via land right now, Trudeau noted.
Federal officials have previously stated that it enforces hotel quarantine for air arrivals only because it is easier to concentrate efforts at the four airports currently accepting international flights – this being Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.
There are 117 points of entry into Canada by land, some of which are located in rural areas that are not readily accessible to hotels.
Officials have also pointed out that it would be a difficult task trying to usher land travellers into quarantine hotels, saying how the legal and logistic environments are different at land entries compared to air.
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