National Post (Latest Edition)
Military to aid in border testing
OTTAWA • The Canadian Armed Forces is deploying reconnaissance teams to the border as the federal government prepares to enlist the military’s help in screening travellers for COVID-19.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last week that all non-essential travellers arriving at the border by land will be tested starting Feb. 22 before they are allowed to enter the country.
Travellers will still be required to quarantine for 14 days, after which they will be tested again.
The Public Health Agency of Canada is now looking at setting up testing sites at 16 border crossings with the U.S. with assistance from the Canadian Armed Forces and other federal departments.
Defence Department spokeswoman Jessica Lamirande says that military assistance includes sending some service members to different sites to help with planning and logistics.
“In co-ordination with PHAC and Public Safety, CAF planners from regional joint task forces are assisting in the assessment of options, in some cases through on-theground assistance in reconnaissance, related to planning and logistics,” she said.
The preparations come amid ongoing discussions among the Canadian Armed Forces and various federal departments around the exact nature of the assistance that the military will provide in staffing those testing sites.
The government announced the plan for the new border controls last month, but how they will work, who might be exempted and how the rules will be enforced were only laid out on Friday.
Incoming travellers will need tests upon arrival, and another one towards the end of their quarantine, while those arriving by air will have to wait out the first part of that period in a hotel until that first test comes back.
With some public health officials warning more contagious variants of the virus are beginning to proliferate, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair on Friday defended the time it has taken to roll out the measures, and the fact they won’t be implemented for several more days.
He said the government wanted to give Canadians abroad time to make arrangements, and make sure that officials in charge of enforcement have what they need as well.
Statistics Canada released new data Friday showing just how much travel to Canada has declined since January 2020.
The number of Canadians returning via the land border was down 91.4 per cent last month, compared to January 2020. The number of U.S. travellers dropped by 93.3 per cent.
At airports using electronic kiosks tracking arrivals, the number of non-residents arriving dropped 94.7 per cent in January when compared to last year.
As part of the new border controls, major Canadian airlines have also cancelled flights to some popular winter holiday destinations.