Airlines phone on federal governing administration to delay rollout of pre-departure COVID-19 assessments

Just days before the governing administration is set to roll out obligatory pre-departure COVID-19 tests for travellers returning to Canada, the CEOs of the country’s premier airways are calling on Transport Minister Marc Garneau to hold off the rollout until later on this month, CBC News has acquired.

The heads of Air Canada, WestJet, Air Transat and Sunwing — along with two major trade associations, the Worldwide Air Transportation Association and Countrywide Airlines Council of Canada — recently despatched a letter to Garneau warning him that the federal government’s timeline for implementing the testing protocol isn’t feasible.

The carriers are proposing that the new rules — due to acquire effect on Thursday — should really instead kick in on January 18.

“Minister, we have quite severe issues about the feasibility of effectively utilizing these kinds of a significant evaluate in the exceptionally quick time[frame] announced, with no session or a coordinated strategy,” reads the letter to Garneau, obtained by CBC News.

The government announced the new tests regime past week, subsequent several studies of individual Canadians — including political figures — travelling abroad for the holiday seasons in defiance of federal government advisories from non-important journey.

The new demands could discourage travel at a time when the airline industry is struggling with a dramatic fall in website traffic. The procedures that occur into outcome on Jan. 7 say that travellers five a long time of age or older must receive a adverse end result on a polymerase chain response (PCR) take a look at — the typical nose swab check for detecting active COVID-19 infections — within just 72 hours of boarding a flight to Canada.

Airlines say they weren’t consulted about the new policy just before it was announced. In their letter to Garneau, they argue the new principles create a “authentic risk that Canadians will now be stranded abroad” and say they’ve heard from hundreds of Canadians alarmed by the chance.

“With the latest timeframes and absence of clarity and element, we have to take note individual worry around the really true prospect of Canadians of all ages remaining denied boarding and stranded at location, in the present-day context of considerably decreased flight frequencies and over‐stretched airline, federal government and consular methods because of to the pandemic,” stated the letter.

Some Canadians can continue to board planes devoid of COVID-19 tests

Garneau explained very last 7 days, nevertheless, that if travellers can display they could not obtain COVID-19 exams overseas, they can still board flights home — but they are going to need to have to quarantine in a federally-controlled facility in Canada.

Travellers in nations the place tests is available are demanded to demonstrate documentation of a unfavorable test outcome to airways prior to boarding a flight to Canada, said Garneau.

In a statement today, the minister’s office reminded Canadians that travel constraints and steps can modify on limited detect. The business office said Garneau plans to put into action the changes as planned on Jan. 7 at 12:01 am ET as an “supplemental layer of security for Canadians.”

“We are reaching hazardous circumstance quantities in regions across the nation and we cannot afford to pay for to stop the significant operate being accomplished to protect the overall health and protection of Canadians,” explained Garneau’s press secretary Allison St-Jean.

“In spite of a difficult environment, airways have performed an vital part given that the beginning of the struggle versus COVID-19 and we are assured they will go on to do so.”

The airways say in the letter that they were “perplexed that airline and tour operators had been not consulted” very first, given that they’ll be predicted to implement the new regulations and they only have draft guidance from the federal government on how to move forward.

“Minister, at the time of crafting this letter, mere times prior to heading into power, the Interim Buy elaborating the new measure has but to be finalized and only preliminary draft direction material is out there,” claims the letter. 

Transport Minister Marc Garneau is remaining warned by the airline marketplace that the federal government’s fast introduction of airport tests challenges stranding Canadians overseas. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Airline business called for testing at Canadian airports for months

The new rules come after the airline marketplace spent months calling on the federal government to perform COVID-19 testing at airports in Canada.

“… our market has invested in and publicly advocated for rational tests protocols, this kind of as arrival testing in Canada in which the quality and regularity of tests can be effectively regulated and managed,” said the letter.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc told CBC News on Dec. 30 that other provinces have spoken to the federal federal government about duplicating a pilot task in Alberta. The system — a partnership among Alberta and the federal governing administration — allows eligible global travellers to acquire a COVID-19 exam at just one of two border crossings in the province: the Calgary Global Airport and the Coutts land border crossing.

Travellers whose tests occur back negative can depart quarantine as prolonged as they remain in Alberta for 14 days. They also must obtain a 2nd test six or 7 times just after arrival at a collaborating local community pharmacy.

LeBlanc explained the federal federal government isn’t going to have enough facts from the pilot nevertheless to identify whether a shortened quarantine period of time is sound wellness coverage.