Change It Up

The Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable has called on the federal government to redeploy PCR tests used for on-arrival testing of fully-vaccinated, asymptomatic and previously negative travellers into Canada for community use and for a return to randomized on-arrival testing for surveillance purposes.

The federal government announced additional measures to contain the spread of the Omicron variant on Dec. 17, with measures including the increase of on-arrival PCR testing for travellers arriving from destinations other than the United States and isolation until test results are received, despite all travellers being fully vaccinated, asymptomatic and having just received a negative PCR test in the last 72 hours. The redundant testing requirement was introduced at a time of a shortage of such tests for use in community testing.

These measures were designed to keep Omicron out of Canada. Now that Omicron has made its way into Canadian communities, it is important we shift policies to reflect the realities of the current COVID-19 situation. Canada’s international peers, like the United Kingdom and Israel, have already done so.  The government should consider shifting back to arrival testing on a random basis for surveillance purposes, which was recommended by the Expert Panel.

The positivity rate of fully vaccinated travellers entering Canada on a relative basis is extremely low when contrasted against the significantly higher positive rate in the community. This is because the arrivals test effectively re-tests COVID-negative travellers.

Canada is currently facing a COVID-19 testing crisis. On-arrival COVID-19 PCR tests waste valuable, scarce testing resources that could be redeployed to protect our frontline workers and support a return to school for children. Shifting from double testing at the border will allow these COVID-19 PCR tests to be deployed to communities where they are most needed.

Canada’s travel and tourism sector continues to partner with decision-makers to blunt the impact of the variant on our communities. The Roundtable understands the severity and complexity of the Omicron COVID-19 variant. We encourage the federal government to update these temporary measures and return to a program of randomized testing of travellers which will continue to provide data on COVID-19.