Ottawa’s temporary pause on mandatory randomized testing at airports is set to expire on June 30, 2022.
After that, beginning July 1, the federal government intends on bringing the program back for all – although with a slightly different approach in order to aid the flow of passengers at airports.
As Transport Minister Omar Alghabra has previously indicated, arriving unvaccinated travellers will be tested at random at a facility near the airport (it isn’t yet clear where) while select vaccinated travellers will receive a test kit to complete virtually at home.
(To be clear, both types of travellers will be tested at random and quarantine isn’t required while waiting on test results).
Scrap everything, says Roundtable
But the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable, a coalition of industry leaders, said the government should avoid reintroducing testing at airports altogether and lift al remaining COVID-19 restrictions impacting travel.
Removing the entire testing process from airports will “ease the passenger experience,” particularly once staffing issues with third-party agencies have been dealt with, the Roundtable said in a statement on Tuesday (June 28).
“It is critical that the government not allow these restrictions to come back into force and push the sector backwards.”
Urging Ottawa to “follow the overwhelming science and evidence,” the Roundtable is advocating for:
- Removing COVID-19 testing out of the travel environment and consider other ways to assess community spread, such as community wastewater testing for tracking future variants;
- Permanently lifting the vaccine requirement for travel for both domestic and international travellers in addition to workers in the sector; and
- Streamlining ArriveCAN and using it solely as a pre-entry declaration system to digitize border processing.
The Roundtable is also requesting a meeting with federal officials to discuss a contingency response plan for the fall.
The group says that leftover COVID-19 measures at the border “limit the sector's ability to recover after more than two years of shutdowns and restrictions.”
There are also “no scientific reasons” that the travel economy should be treated differently than any other sector, as confirmed by officials at the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Canada's travel and tourism sector is still facing major challenges caused in part by the significant underperformance of government and third-party service providers and labour shortages, the Roundtable says.
Canadians cannot access passports, the wait time for NEXUS applications is unmanageable, CATSA, CBSA, and NAV Canada staffing is insufficient, and the sector is plagued with “untenable policies that are not rooted in science.”
While the Roundtable acknowledges Ottawa’s recent establishment of the Cabinet Task Force on Government Services to review some of these issues, the coalition says it would like service level standards and timelines communicated to the industry and the travelling public “to ensure swift action and improvements.”