An international air transport organisation that represents the vast majority of the world’s commercial airlines has raged against a decision by the Canadian government to bring back mandatory random COVID-19 testing for air travellers.
The Public Health Agency of Canada reintroduced its border testing programme on Tuesday despite pleas from the airline industry to remove all pandemic travel restrictions in line with a growing number of countries.
Canada suspended mandatory random testing for air travellers on June 11 but Minister for Health Jean-Yves Duclos decided to reintroduce the policy over fears about the spread of the BA.5 Omicron variant.
“Canada has become a total outlier in managing COVID-19 and travel,” slammed Peter Cerda, regional director for the Americas at the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
“While governments across the globe are rolling back restrictions, the Government of Canada is reinstating them.”
Cerda urged the Canadian government to follow the lead of Australia – a country that had gone from having some of the toughest pandemic travel restrictions in the world to having nearly no barriers to travel at all.
“Rather than following this example and enabling travel and tourism to recover, those in power in Canada believe that throwing more red tape at the pandemic is the way forward,” Cerda decried.
Air travellers will be selected randomly on arrival in Canada and required to get tested for COVID-19, either at select locations outside of airports or via a virtual appointment with a self-test.
Those who test positive will be required to quarantine for 10 days – double the time that most provinces and local governments recommend Covid-positive people to isolate.
Duclos has defended the policy saying it is “guided by science and prudence” and that random testing will help Canada help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Airlines are, however, less than impressed. Not only are they raging at the reimposition of random testing but they want Canada to go much further in removing barriers to travel.
Cerda is calling on the Canadian government to drop vaccination rules for foreign visitors and even to end mask mandates in airports and on airplanes. There are also calls for Canada to stop using its temperamental ArriveCAN mobile app as a tool for pandemic travel restrictions.
“Now is the time for the Government of Canada to join its counterparts around the world and remove unnecessary and outdated measures,” Cerda implored last week. On Tuesday, Canada chose to go the other way.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.