National Post (Latest Edition)

Airlines slam need for COVID test results

Requiremen­t goes into effect Thursday

- Christophe­r Reynolds

OTTAWA • Airlines and travellers say a slew of questions remain about the federal government’s decision to require passengers returning to Canada to show negative results on COVID-19 tests taken abroad.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced last Thursday that air travellers overseas will have to present proof of a negative molecular test — known as a PCR test, conducted with a nasal swab — that was taken within 72 hours of departure, unless such testing is unavailabl­e.

The Transport Department has yet to provide a list of foreign agencies whose tests are considered acceptable or to establish how airline employees should determine whether a test certificat­e is valid, said National Airlines Council of Canada chief executive Mike Mcnaney.

“With less than a week to implement, we do not have the interim orders in writing — it’s from the interim orders that you base your operations and obligation­s,” he said.

Mcnaney said the new rule, which mandates a 14day quarantine in Canada regardless of the test result, will cause uncertaint­y and “frustratio­n” for carriers and passengers alike.

“We’re very concerned about the confusion that’s going to occur and the disjointed­ness of implementa­tion that’s going occur. And it all could have been avoided,” he said.

Air Transat vice-president Christophe Hennebelle says Ottawa announced the requiremen­t, which takes effect this Thursday, without any consultati­on.

“It kind of came out of the blue ... We had no advance notice,” he said. “We feel that all that is a bit improvised and basically the feeling we have behind that is that the government wants to stop travel but does not say it.”

Transport Canada did not immediatel­y respond to questions Monday.

As of 12: 01 a. m. Thursday, travellers coming from countries where PCR testing is “unavailabl­e” will be required to stay at a “designated quarantine facility” for two weeks upon arrival in Canada, rather than at home the way test- toting passengers can.

Whether “unavailabl­e” means non- existent or simply hard to access is unclear, as is how passengers can prove the tests’ unavailabi­lity to a customer service agent at a check-in counter.

Co- ordinating a test with takeoff presents another potential hurdle.

Fo r the past several months, major Canadian airlines have cancelled the majority of their flights several weeks in advance due to a lack of ticket purchases. That means passengers’ flights are often reschedule­d days later, rendering any test taken 48 hours before the initially planned departure invalid for the rebooked flight.

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