Ontario is launching a new, voluntary and free border testing pilot program at Toronto Pearson International Airport for eligible international travellers returning to Ontario to help quickly identify and stop the spread of COVID-19 in the province.
The announcement was made by Premier Doug Ford, Deputy Premier, Christine Elliott and Minister of Health, and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones.
The Premier said that: “With over 60,000 international passengers coming into Pearson airport every week, we can’t take any unnecessary risks. That’s why we’re putting in place this new pilot program to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and respond to new threats like the recent strain of the virus we’re seeing in an alarming number of countries without the same travel restrictions as the U.K. The test will be free for eligible travellers and I encourage everyone to take the test to protect yourselves and your loved ones.”
Recognizing the increased risk that inbound international travellers may pose, including the potential to spread the new UK COVID-19 variant, the government is fulfilling its commitment to quickly implement airport testing to help contain this deadly virus.
Beginning Jan. 6, 2021, the province, in partnership with the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, will offer free and voluntary COVID-19 testing for international travellers arriving and staying in the province for at least 14 days.
Minister Elliott said that: “We are working closely with our industry partners to proceed on our commitment to implement testing at Pearson airport to help keep people safe and stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.”
And she added: “This airport testing pilot will test, trace and help isolate COVID-19 cases early and is a great step forward in protecting our borders.”
Deborah Flint, President and CEO, Greater Toronto Airports Authority, said: “Today’s announcement is the culmination of months of perseverance among scientists, health professionals, the aviation industry and our partners in federal and provincial government to make a safe industry even safer.”
Flint noted that: “This pilot program is another protective layer in our industry-leading Healthy Airport commitment. We look forward to continued collaboration with the federal and provincial governments, as testing is an internationally accepted risk mitigation strategy.”
Eligible travellers will be able pre-register for the program or proceed to get tested when they arrive at the airport. Those choosing to participate in the pilot will receive a free, self-collected lab-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test and be supervised by a health care provider either in-person or by video as the traveller self-administers the test. Switch Health, a health service provider, will provide the monitored self-swabbing tests in a convenient and dedicated space in the airport. Switch Health has been delivering testing services in the Windsor-Leamington area and Peel Region, and can support the needed volumes and timing requirements for the testing pilot.
Test results will be reported into Ontario’s Lab Information System within 48 hours and local public health units will follow up on all positive tests. All international travellers will continue to be required to follow the federal requirement for a mandatory 14-day quarantine after arriving or returning to Canada, regardless if they have a negative or positive test.
Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, pointed out that: “This pilot program is another critical element in our government’s efforts to put in place the measures needed to keep Ontarians safe from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Minister continued: “Introducing testing at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport will help stop the transmission of the virus and support the development of a longer-term testing strategy needed for international travel. We remain steadfast in our commitment to doing what is needed to protect the health and safety of Ontarians.”
Ontario’s new program is in addition to the federal government’s pre-departure requirement for travellers bound to Canada to demonstrate proof of negative COVID-19 results from a test taken within three days prior to departure.
The province continues to work with the federal government to explore the next stage of the pilot, including a proposed modified quarantine period for participants who test negative.
With the confirmation of cases of the COVID-19 UK Variant stemming from inbound international travel, the province continues to be in constant contact with the Public Health Agency of Canada and other jurisdictions to monitor the developing situation related to the COVID-19 UK Variant and ensure coordinated, effective and shared efforts to protect and safeguard the public.
Inbound international travellers can register to participate in the program at www.torontopearson.com/testing. Registration can be done in advance of arrival at the airport or upon arrival at Toronto Pearson airport.