China abandoning its COVID zero strategy has led to a wave of new infections in the country, and in response, the world has responded with new travel measures.
Earlier this month, Canada, alongside other countries, announced a new requirement that travellers aged two and older from China must produce a negative COVID-19 test prior to departure.
The policy, enacted Jan. 5, applies to passengers flying to Canada from mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau, and the feds put the "temporary" measures in place for 30 days.
Data released this week from the Angus Reid Institute finds a majority of Canadians supportive of this policy, but unsure if it will be effective at reducing the spread of COVID-19 in Canada.
Canadians who support the policy (77%) outnumber those who are opposed (16%) by nearly five-to-one, Angus Reid reports.
But those who believe pre-departure testing will be effective at reducing infections in Canada (34%) are in the minority, reports the poll, which surveyed 1,611 Canadian adults between Jan. 6-10.
More Canadians believe it will be ineffective (38%) or are unsure (28%).
Among Canadians who support the rule, fewer than half (44%) say they believe it will be effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19.
There are other concerns surrounding this China-specific travel rule.
Some, including the Chinese government, have called it discriminatory, while others have called it downright racist.
According to Angus Reid’s survey, some worry Canada’s travel policy for China will “rekindle ugly sentiments.”
One-in-eight (13%) Canadians call the policy racist. However, more (73%) believe it’s not.
Canadians who identify as visible minorities are twice as likely to label the policy racist (23%) than those who don’t identify as such (10%), the survey says.
Still, majorities of those who identify as visible minority (62%) and those who don’t (76%) say the policy is not racist.
Other countries, such as the United States, Australia, France, Spain and England, have also tightened their COVID rules on flights from China.
Earlier this month, European Union officials "strongly" recommended that all member states insist on negative COVID tests from passengers arriving from China before they travel.
Canada’s requirement, which applies regardless of one’s vaccination status, will be reassessed after 30 days as “more data and evidence becomes available,” the government said in a press release.
Ottawa says airlines must see a negative COVID-19 test result, or documentation of a positive test result, before a traveller in China boards their plane to Canada – “otherwise the traveller will be denied boarding.”
Medical experts cast doubt
Medical experts, meanwhile, have cast doubt on the effectiveness of pre-departure testing.
Speaking with the Canadian Press on Jan. 1, Kerry Bowman, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto's Temerty Faculty of Medicine, called Canada's testing requirement for China "absolutely a political move, and not based on science at this point."
"This isn't the early days of the pandemic," Bowman told CP. "So, I do think it's largely political."
Bowman, who teaches bioethics and global health, added that "point of entry screening is not very effective at all."
"Often people can test positive days and weeks later," Bowman was quoted as saying.
A study released by Canadian doctors last September also found that there is "no convincing evidence" that pre-departure (and on-arrival) testing have a significant impact on local transmission of COVID-19 in Canada.