Remove The Roadblocks

At an event in Calgary, the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable continue to call on the federal government to remove pre-departure testing entirely. It was joined in its call by   medical and local business leaders to urge the removal of the restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers on or before April 1 when the regulations will be updated. And it notes that continued testing targeted at solely the travel sector is both unnecessary and not rooted in science.

While the federal government took a step in the right direction by altering the testing regime around travel, its decision to allow the use of rapid antigen tests for pre-departure, which takes effect today (Feb. 28), is not grounded in science or evidence, the group said.

And it pointed out that the travel and tourism sector continues to be the only industry subject to mandatory testing, despite being safer than many everyday domestic activities.

Dr. Zain Chagla, an Infectious Diseases Physician and Associate Professor at McMaster University, said that: “Whether it be PCR or rapid antigen testing, COVID-19 testing at the border does not make sense. Travel is no riskier than many other domestic activities, and there is no scientific reason to single it out.”

He noted that: “The federal government’s outdated travel policies are unnecessarily stranding Canadians abroad, leading to travel delays, financial penalties, and potentially hazardous quarantine locations.”

Canada’s current COVID-19 travel restrictions are obsolete and out of step with countries worldwide, including the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Denmark, which have removed all testing requirements at their respective borders for fully vaccinated travellers.

Richard Bartrem, Vice President of Communications at WestJet, said that: “After two years, Canadians are once again looking forward to heading south for March Break, yet despite many assurances barriers to travel remain in place. We are seeing other major nations make travel accessible and affordable while Canada continues to lag behind its global counterparts. Canadian travellers are fully-vaccinated and should no longer be subject to out-of-pocket testing expenses and outdated measures when returning home.”

Leanne Shaw, General Manager, Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Calgary Airport, said that: “The tourism industry has been one of the hardest-hit in sectors in the pandemic. Our once-bustling hotel is hanging on by a thread. Simply replacing the PCR test with an antigen test has not positively impacted bookings. We are urgently looking to the federal government for predictability and travel rules based on science.”

Shaw continued: “The federal government has acknowledged that we are in a different phase of pandemic management. Canada’s travel rules should reflect this. It’s time to do away with pre-departure COVID-19 testing so that we have a shot at saving our summer.”

Lesley Keyter of South Travel pointed out that: “Last week’s announcement by the federal government on PCR testing did not go far enough. My travel agency continues to see cancellation after cancellation. Confusion around the rules and fear of getting stuck abroad has established an environment of uncertainty for travellers.”

Said Keyter: “It’s time for Canada’s travel rules to keep up with developments in science,” “Canada’s travel industry is hurting, many businesses are on the brink of collapse, it’s time for the federal government to put an end to all COVID-19 travel restrictions.”

The pandemic, vaccination status, and available science have evolved; so should the response and measures to keep Canadians safe while allowing the travel and tourism industry to re-open.