Requirement for air travellers to test negative for COVID-19 before arrival likely to discourage globe-trotting: travel agents

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“The new pre-departure testing introduced by the federal government does not replace the need to quarantine on arrival or undergo testing if an individual wishes to be in our pilot.

After 10 weeks, the voluntary program had tested 18,021 people as of Dec. 17 with a positive rate of 1.15 per cent after the two obligatory swabs.

It’s to last six months or until it reaches 52,000 passengers tested.

On Tuesday, Premier Jason Kenney touted the program’s value and said it should be expanded across the country.

“We’re able to pick up those who test positive right away which enables us to intervene more quickly,” he said.

Airlines, he said, have already been “very responsible…they’re practising the greatest diligence possible” in preventing the spread of infection among passengers.

Calgary-based WestJet was also reviewing the new restriction on Wednesday before commenting but spokeswoman Morgan Bell said the existing pilot test project did cause “an uptick of travellers at the start.”

The new testing rule does not appear to apply to anyone crossing by car into Canada through a border point with the United States.

“Right now, the greatest concern that we have heard among Canadians is the impact of international travel at our airports,” Blair said.

Several other countries, including the U.S., have implemented a negative test requirement for incoming passengers. The identification of new strains of COVID-19 in the U.K. and South Africa has only heightened concerns about cross-border spread of the virus.

The government had months to implement a similar system in Canada, but instead rolled out a haphazard announcement in response to headlines, said Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel.

“Our MP offices have already been receiving inquiries this morning from panicked travellers abroad on this new requirement,” she said in a statement Wednesday.

-with files from CP

BKaufmann@postmedia.com

on Twitter: @Billkaufmannjrn

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