Saturday,  September 26, 2020  5:01 pm

Contact tracing deal with airlines could slow COVID-19 in Canada, B.C.'s health officer says

  • Air
  •   08-05-2020  4:20 pm
  •   Pax Global Media
Contact tracing deal with airlines could slow COVID-19 in Canada, B.C.'s health officer says
Pax Global Media

Despite warnings to stay home, sick people are still getting on flights, British Columbia's Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, told reporters this afternoon (Aug. 5th).

"It's not just flights from the U.S...it's also flights from other countries, and internal flights," Henry shared. "We've had people who were actually sick on the flight, coming in from Toronto from other parts of Canada."

A need for contact tracing?

Henry's statements echo concerns over airlines' willingness to share traveller data (better known as contact tracing).

Doing so could be one solution to better slow the spread and transmission of COVID-19, as it would allow for quicker follow-ups with those seated nearby, should an exposure to the virus happen on board, or at the airport.

"All of the airlines need to have processes to screen out people, but we need to be honest about it and part of that means, if we are not feeling well, we need to have the ability to postpone or change our flights; those are important things," Henry said. 

Part of this, Henry insists, means that airlines have flexible policies in place for their affected customers. 

While all airlines are required to submit passenger names, they do not have to share contact details with Transport Canada.

According to The Canadian Press, Ottawa is currently in talks with individual airlines, who are trying to decide whether phone numbers and email addresses are adequate, or if the individual's home address should also be handed over.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of Canada's airlines have issued Future Travel Credits (FTCs) that are generally valid for up to 24 months, though Air Transat recently revealed that it's FTCs will no longer come with an expiry date.

14-day quarantine remains

While the Government of Canada has advised against non-essential travel, air borders remain open, and Canadians can travel abroad to select destinations, so long as they subject themselves to the mandatory 14-day quarantine upon returning to Canada. The exception to this rule is domestic travel.

To date, Canada has had 119, 882 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University, with 104,189 recoveries and 9,008 deaths. 

"One of the most challenging things we do is trying to get flight manifests a couple of days later when we realize someone might be ill, and the type of information that's on those flight manifests is often not very helpful when trying to follow up with people," Henry said. "To be able to more efficiently identify people who are within rows of someone who develops symptoms after a flight, or if they had symptoms on a flight...would be very helpful for us."


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