Tuesday,  January 19, 2021  1:33 pm

Travellers in Jamaica can return to Canada without PCR test until Jan. 18

Travellers in Jamaica can return to Canada without PCR test until Jan. 18
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

This article was updated on Jan. 9, 2021, at 1:48 p.m. EST

WestJet and the Canadian government have come to an agreement on a process for allowing guests to return to Canada without securing a PCR test in Jamaica prior to departure, PAX has learned.

The news comes two days after the Trudeau government unveiled its new requirement that all international passengers entering Canada have a negative PCR test result 72 hours prior to arrival.

READ MORE: Unrealistic & disastrous”: Canada's travel industry reacts to new COVID-19 testing rules for air travellers

WestJet’s agreement was made “due to limitations in PCR test availability” in Jamaica, according to a notice the airline posted on Saturday (Jan. 9).

WestJet guests in Jamaica who have been able to complete a PCR test and have received a negative test result are being instructed to proceed to their airport for their scheduled flight.

READ MORE: Stranded passengers, no-shows: airlines face challenges on day one of COVID testing rule

Guests who have not been able to secure a PCR test will be permitted to travel between Sun., Jan 10 and Sun., Jan 18 under the confirmation that they will undergo a PCR test upon arrival at Toronto Pearson International Airport after clearing Customs and Immigration and having their 14-day quarantine plan approved.

"We sent our guests this correspondence as we anticipate issues for those currently in destination in Jamaica, specifically Montego Bay, with flights departing this weekend," wrote WestJet spokesperson Morgan Bell in an email to PAX. "We issued an urgent notice to the hundreds of our guests scheduled to fly home this weekend from Montego Bay (MBJ) as we understand there is a lack of availability for PCR COVID-19 testing in the Montego Bay area."

The Ontario government officially launched free COVID-19 testing for international travellers at Pearson airport on Jan. 6. 

The pilot program, called the Arrivals Testing Pilot Program, will be made available at both Terminal 1 and Terminal 3, and is administered by Switch Health.

Guests will be able to complete the PCR test at Pearson before leaving the airport or connecting to another domestic flight, said WestJet. 

Click here for WestJet's most up-to-date information.

Air Canada guests will get same option

It seems Transport Canada is making a temporary exception for Jamaica as it unrolls its new COVID-19 testing requirement for international arrivals.

By extension, guests flying with Air Canada out of Jamaica will have the same flexibility around pre-departure tests. 

"Air Canada customers will get the same option," wrote Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick in an email to PAX on Saturday.  

Other limited-time exceptions  

It's expected that some countries in the Caribbean may need extra time to meet the sudden spike in demand for PCR tests from tourists. 

Federal officials have already offered some limited-time exceptions to the rules as destinations adjust.  

Travellers departing from the Caribbean or South America, for instance, can use tests conducted within 96 hours of departure (instead of 72 hours) until Jan. 14, 2021,

Additionally: travellers departing from Saint Pierre et Miquelon are exempt from the requirement until Jan.14, and travellers departing from Haiti, until Jan. 21, 2021.

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