Canada announces new COVID-19 testing requirements for all arriving air passengers

The Canadian government announced new COVID-19 testing requirements this week for all air travelers flying into Canada. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says the new requirements adds to the country’s existing “draconian COVID-19 border control regimes.”

Effective midnight on January 7, 2021, regardless of citizenship, all travelers five years of age or older must provide proof of a negative laboratory test result for COVID-19 to the airline prior to boarding a flight to Canada. The test must be either a molecular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP)–and must be conducted within 72 hours of the traveler’s scheduled departure to Canada.

All travelers coming to Canada must present this information at the time of boarding. Failure to do so will mean an automatic denial of boarding by the airline operating the flight to Canada. 

IATA expressed frustration with Canada’s new COVID-19 testing requirement, which adds the testing while maintaining the requirement for quarantine.

“Canada already has one the world’s most draconian COVID-19 border control regimes, including travel bans and quarantines. Even though COVID-19 testing is an internationally accepted risk-mitigation strategy, there are no plans to adjust the current 14-day quarantine rule nor eliminate the temperature checks airlines are required to perform on passengers wishing to travel to Canada,” IATA said in a statement.

“The severe economic consequences of the prolonged border closure are already evident. Latest estimates show that the aviation sector’s direct GDP contribution to Canada’s economy dropped by US$10.39 billion in 2020 vs 2019, placing some 146,000 Canadian jobs at risk. The year-on-year fall in GDP contribution to the wider travel and tourism economy is estimated at US$21.29 billion with some 286,000 jobs at risk.”

IATA says that the way forward is through a well-planned and coordinated introduction of testing inbound travelers, as a replacement for quarantine measures.

“At current infection levels, testing travelers will ensure that opening borders will not pose additional risk of contagion in Canada. We challenge the government to prove otherwise,” says the IATA statement.

In the meantime, IATA says it is incumbent on the Government of Canada to put this initiative on hold until it has defined:

*Testing requirements and coordinated with the industry to achieve realistic implementation timelines;

* A policy roadmap to safely re-open borders by managing the risk of contagion with testing as a replacement for quarantine measures.

“We need to start 2021 by taking steps to safely live with COVID-19. What is the point of implementing testing if it does not result in a lifting of border closures nor quarantine requirements? After nine-months of closed borders and confinement, we cannot afford to move in the wrong direction with the disastrous implementation of a counter-productive testing policy,” says IATA.