Ontario no longer providing Canada with COVID-19 flight exposure notifications
TORONTO -- Ontario is no longer providing the federal government with COVID-19 flight exposure data, citing an increase in public health measures and vaccinations.
According to Public Health Ontario (PHO), they stopped processing flight notifications from local public health units to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) on Sept. 10.
In a statement, the agency said the decision was made as a result of various public health measures implemented for international travellers, including the need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to boarding and an increase in vaccinations.
“To provide some background and context, flight notifications were used earlier in the pandemic in order to allow the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to inform the public via its website when a COVID-19 positive passenger who was actively infectious was on a flight,” a spokesperson said. “As the science about COVID-19 and our knowledge of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has evolved, so too must our response to better target where public health work and actions will produce the most benefit and that will have the most impact in support of the pandemic response.”
“According to PHAC, available evidence suggests that the likelihood of passenger-to-passenger transmission aboard aircraft appears to be very low. Public health measures such as masking except when eating or drinking, regular hand washing or sanitizing while on a flight, and COVID-19 vaccination continue to be actions that help to protect oneself and others from getting sick.”
PHAC has been regularly updating its website with COVID-19 data for more than a year, revealing hundreds of flights every month that were exposed to a positive case.
The data, which is updated daily but only shows results from the last 14 days, tells travellers what airline, flight number and seating rows could have been affected. Passengers in those rows are asked to self-monitor for symptoms, self-isolate if necessary and contact their local public health unit for guidance.
The website, however, now also includes a disclaimer saying “the information listed may not be complete as not all provinces and territories report all of their transportation exposures.”
The site also notes that PHAC receives “limited notifications” from Ontario and Quebec, and that Alberta Health Services only collects travel or flight information on cases with severe outcomes such as hospitalization or death.
As of Oct. 21, the data shows there are 51 international flights and 84 domestic flights that were exposed to COVID-19 over the last 14 days.
The data also shows that 21 domestic and eight international exposed flights left or landed at Toronto Pearson International Airport.
A spokesperson for the Greater Toronto Airport Authority has said that nothing has changed for them in terms of how they receive information regarding potential COVID-19 exposures.