Ontario mulls mandatory COVID-19 testing for all international travellers at Pearson airport
Workers prepare to greet passengers at the COVID-19 testing centre in the International Arrivals area at Pearson Airport in Toronto on Tuesday January 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
TORONTO -- The Ontario government is considering issuing a directive that would require all international travellers arriving at Toronto Pearson airport to get tested for COVID-19.
A government source told CP24 Wednesday evening that Dr. David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, is looking into issuing a section 22 order under the Health Promotion and Protection Act to mandate testing for travellers arriving from outside the country.
Premier Doug Ford has repeatedly called on Ottawa to implement mandatory testing at the airport as new variants of the novel coronavirus emerged in other countries.
The federal government's slow response on the issue has led Ontario to consider taking action, the source said.
The premier also wants the federal government to impose a temporary ban on direct flights from countries where the variants are found as well as flights with multiple stops in countries with a known variant.
"While we've made steady progress through this pilot program, thousands of people continue to pass through Pearson every week without being tested, creating a real risk to all Ontarians," Ford said on Tuesday.
"That's why, in addition to pre-departure testing, we're asking the federal government to adopt mandatory testing upon arrival for all international travellers and impose a temporary ban on flights coming from countries where new COVID-19 strains are being detected."
As of Wednesday afternoon, Public Health Ontario said there have 51 cases of the UK variant in Ontario.
The province also provided an update on its voluntary COVID-19 testing pilot project at the airport on Tuesday. Of the 6,580 tests conducted, 146 came back positive, including four that have been screened as potential UK variants.
According to the federal government, at least 156 flights have landed in Canada between Jan. 10 and Jan. 23 that had passengers who tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in the country. Seventy-six of those flights landed in Toronto.
International travel has been linked to 1.8 per cent of all COVID-19 cases in Ontario, according to the recent data from the province.
Mayors and chairs of the 11 municipalities in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area echoed Ford calling for stricter travel measures.
On Wednesday, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said mandatory testing would add an extra layer of community protection.
"What's clear is that we haven't come close to exhausting all the tools we have in the fight against COVID-19," Crombie said at a news conference.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadians Tuesday to avoid non-essential travel abroad as new travel restrictions will be announced in the coming days.
Existing measures include requiring international air travellers to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure and a 14-day mandatory quarantine upon arrival.
- with files from CTV News and CP24 staff