Mandatory random COVID-19 testing will resume for fully vaccinated travellers arriving at Canada's four major airports – Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Toronto – starting July 19, 2022, federal officials announced Thursday (July 14).
This restores the program that was paused on June 11 as part of a strategy to transition testing for air travellers outside of airports amid ongoing operational issues due to understaffed facilities and a spike in demand.
All testing for air travellers, for both those who qualify as fully vaccinated and partially or unvaccinated, will now be completed outside of airports, either via an in-person appointment at select testing provider locations and pharmacies, or a virtual appointment for a self-swab test, Ottawa says.
Travellers who do not qualify as fully vaccinated, unless exempt, must continue to test on day one and day eight of their mandatory 14-day quarantine
“Testing was and remains an important part of our surveillance program to track the importation of COVID-19 virus into Canada and identify new variants of concern,” the Government of Canada wrote in a release on Thursday. “Moving testing outside of airports will support testing for travellers arriving by air while still being able to monitor and quickly respond to new variants of concern, or changes to the epidemiological situation.”
Mandatory random testing will continue at land border points of entry, with no changes, officials said.
"As we have said all along, Canada's border measures will remain flexible and adaptable, guided by science and prudence,” stated Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos. “We need to keep border testing measures in place because that is how we track importation of the COVID-19 virus, and of new variants of concern. We will keep adapting our border measures to balance the need to protect Canadians while supporting our economic recovery.”
Ottawa says data from the testing program are used to understand the current level and trends of importation of COVID-19 into Canada.
“In addition, these data have and continue to inform the Government of Canada's safe easing of border measures,” the government says.
Fully vaccinated air travellers who are selected for mandatory random testing, as well unvaccinated travellers, will receive an email notification within 15 minutes of completing their customs declaration.
The email will contain information to help them “arrange for their test with a testing provider in their region,” officials said.
Unvaccinated travellers will be able to complete their tests by a virtual appointment or an in-person appointment with the test provider at their store or at select pharmacies and still respect their quarantine requirements.
Meanwhile, all travellers must continue to use ArriveCAN to provide mandatory travel information within 72 hours before their arrival in Canada, and/or before boarding a cruise ship destined for Canada, the government said.
“It is the fastest, easiest and most secure way for travellers to show they meet public health requirements,” officials said, noting that efforts are being undertaken to enhance compliance with ArriveCAN, which is “already over 95 per cent for travellers arriving by land and air combined.”
ArriveCAN, introduced in April of 2020, faces widespread criticism as border mayors, small businesses, travel industry advocates and travellers argue that the app should be turfed altogether.
As for on-arrival testing, if a traveller tests positive, he or she must go into isolation and follow the federal requirement to isolate for 10 days from the date of the test result, officials said.
“Your 10-day isolation is required, even if the isolation requirement is shorter in your province or territory,” the government noted.
"As demand for travel increases across the world, today's announcement marks an important step in our progress to streamline testing processes outside our airports while preventing the further spread of COVID-19,” stated Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra. “The Government of Canada will continue to protect travellers and employees and ensure our transportation system is safe, reliable, and resilient for the long term."
This is a developing story.