canada testing requirements

Toronto airport could soon descend into chaos with new COVID testing requirements

News that all international travellers returning to Canada (except the U.S.) will be tested for COVID-19 could mean huge waits at Pearson International Airport.

After news broke of the spread of the new omicron variant, flights from South Africa were banned. And this week, as cases appeared in Ontario, the federal government announced all international travellers (aside from those coming from the U.S.) regardless of vaccination status, will be tested for COVID-19.

Currently, travellers arriving on international flights are tested at airports at random, but testing all arriving passengers could mean huge line-ups — much like the chaos we saw in the summer when travel restrictions eased.

Although the government has yet to provide details on when this new testing protocol would start, the possibility concerns the Canadian Airports Council, which called for the government to work with airports to manage the testing.

"Canada's airports appreciate the Government of Canada's swift move to implement new measures to guard against further spread of the Omicron variant in Canada," said Canadian Airports Council President Daniel-Robert Gooch.

"We urge the Government of Canada to work with Canada's airports and air carriers in the coming hours to ensure these measures, which haven't been seen in detail, are operationally feasible at Canada's international airports."

They suggest the only way to test all travellers would be to provide off-site tests, such as take-home tests.

"Do we really want people waiting for hours for a test in a customs hall?" Gouch said to Reuters. "We want to avoid chaos. And we want to ensure that travelers who have booked trips are comfortable to travel."

Currently, arrivals testing at Pearson International Airport is managed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and administered by the CBSA and Switch Health, Tori Gass, a spokesperson for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority told blogTO in an email.

She also suggested off-site testing could be the best approach.

"We're collaborating with the government on the best way to implement these changes at Pearson, recognizing that a combination of onsite and off-airport testing must be considered to accommodate the volume of tests contemplated," Gass said.

Right now, the airport doesn’t have enough information to know how it will work.

"We're working with the government on the specific details of the new testing requirements and more information will be available in the coming days," she said.

While many people have cancelled travel plans with the news of the new variant, those still hoping to get away can check the airport's Travel Information Hub for the latest information.

Lead photo by

Randy McDonald

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