Alberta and the federal government are teaming up on a joint, pilot program that will safely test an alternative to the current 14-day quarantine requirement for international travellers while continuing to protect Canadians from COVID-19.
Travellers returning to Canada continue to be legally required to quarantine for 14 days after entering the country.
The new pilot announced today (Oct. 22) will explore the feasibility of using a rigorous testing and monitoring program as a strategy to reduce the mandatory quarantine period, while keeping Canadians safe.
Beginning on Nov. 2, COVID-19 testing will be offered initially at two ports of entry into Canada:
- The Coutts land border crossing
- The Calgary International Airport in Alberta
Travellers who participate will receive a COVID-19 test upon entry into Canada before proceeding into the required quarantine.
Once the test comes back negative, they will then be allowed to leave their place of quarantine so long as they commit to getting a second test on day six or seven after arrival, at a community pharmacy participating in the pilot program.
Participants will be closely monitored through daily symptoms checks. They will also be required to follow enhanced preventive health measures, such as wearing masks in public places and avoiding visiting high-risk groups.
Alberta Premier, Jason Kenney said: “This is an important step in Alberta’s Recovery Plan. This new pilot program will allow those who need to travel for work to have a safe path to a shorter quarantine period. Since the start of this pandemic, Alberta’s government has highlighted the importance to protect lives and livelihoods. Today’s announcement does just that.”
Dominic LeBlanc, president of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, said: “Our top priority is the health and safety of Canadians. To this end, the Government of Canada works in close coordination with provincial and territorial partners to limit the spread of COVID-19. We continue to review the latest evidence on how testing could be used to ease border measures.”
Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation, Government of Alberta, pointed out that: “This is a significant initiative for our business community. Being able to safely reduce returning travellers’ quarantine time by a matter of weeks means that Alberta’s business leaders can continue operating their businesses during these unprecedented times. Balancing the health and safety of Albertans with protecting the integrity of our economy remains top priority for Alberta’s government.”
Canada’s Minister of Health, Patty Hajdu said that: “Any changes to public health measures, including testing and quarantine requirements must be supported by strong scientific evidence. This is why we are moving forward with this program, as part of our efforts to gradually restart economic activity and keep protecting Canadians at the same time.”
Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health, Government of Alberta, added: “We are excited to launch this bold new pilot project to look at ways to reduce quarantine periods while protecting the health of Albertans. Safety is our top priority. All participating travellers will be closely monitored to ensure that the pilot is not resulting in any increased risk of exposure for Albertans.”
Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, Government of Canada, said that: “My priorities are the safety and security of the travelling public and Canada’s transportation system. This pilot project is an example of how we continue to work with the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency, provincial and territorial governments and transportation industry stakeholders to reduce the risk of transmission while seeking new safety measures for international travel.”
Good To Know:
- The pilot will begin next month, with the start date expected to be Nov. 2.
- Non-exempt participants will be required to remain in Alberta for the first 14 days, the period normally associated with a quarantine. They may also be issued tickets if they fail to respect the public health requirements of the pilot.
- Eligible candidates must be returning Canadian citizens, permanent residents or foreign nationals currently permitted entry into Canada and who have no symptoms.
- The pilot will engage both levels of government as well as industry and research partners, and will help inform decisions on new measures for international travel.
- All returning international travellers who do not voluntarily participate in the pilot, must continue to adhere to the 14-day quarantine.
Responding to the announcement, WestJet CEO, Ed Sims said: “This announcement is welcomed by WestJet and I applaud and thank Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Jason Kenney for taking this important step in providing peace of mind to anxious travellers. WestJet has been advocating for a science-based rapid testing solution to help safely ease the quarantine requirements. With our home and largest hub in Calgary, guests from the province will be the first to experience this extremely important trial as analternative to a 14-day quarantine.”
Bob Sartor, president and CEO, Calgary Airport Authority, commented: “YYC Calgary International Airport is proud to be the only airport in Canada to have a government-approved testing pilot for arriving international passengers — which we hope will lead to reducing and one day eliminating the current 14-day self-isolation requirements. This innovative science-based testing is the lifeline our airport and airline partners need to instill confidence in air travel.”
Jason Pincock, CEO, DynaLIFE, said: “DynaLIFE has been a partner in Alberta’s health care service for more than 60 years. We are committed to Albertans’ health, and to helping prepare our province and our economy for the road ahead. Essential travel COVID testing is a critical component of that recovery. Our new COVID testing protocol helps address the immediate need for essential travel while building a scalable platform for the return to normal air travel.”