Travellers at Pearson Airport report lack of COVID-19 screening
TORONTO -- Travellers arriving at Toronto Pearson International Airport are reporting a lack of COVID-19 screening a day after the federal government announced new national measures to screen for the virus.
“Six agents on duty, zero screening, no masks, no sanitizer in site, “ traveller Glen Canning wrote on Twitter late Saturday. “This is as unsafe as it can get.”
On Friday, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair said that airports across the country were taking the steps to make sure that Canadians are safe amid the spread of COVID-19.
“We have enhanced screening measures in place at all international airports, as well as land/rail/marine ports of entry,” Blair said in a tweet.
Since then, a number of travellers have responded to the minister’s tweet with their own experiences at Pearson citing a lack of the aforementioned screening protocols.
One traveller said her aunt had just returned home from Spain and told CTV News Toronto that she was not properly screened for the virus.
“Not ONE person for either Air Canada nor from any staff at the airport advised her that she should self-quarantine upon arriving from SPAIN,” Michelle Hartman said in an email. “Customs did not even ask her ANY questions- ie, do you feel ill? Do you have a fever? Where have you been in Spain??? NOTHING.” Spain is reporting more than 6,000 cases as of Sunday morning and announced a nation-wide lockdown of its 46 million citizens on Saturday to limit the spread.
April Donnelly told CTV News Toronto that she had just returned from Portugal and Spain Friday and was not asked where she had travelled to. Scott Montmurro said he arrived at Pearson from a trip to the Dominican Republic on Friday and said he was not asked about his travel history either.
Tony Cahill arrived at Pearson on Saturday after returning from a Caribbean cruise with his family and said that going through customs was “normal”.
“We got through very quickly. The customs agents looked at our passports, looked at our declaration, asked where we had been and that was it.”
On Friday, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen De Villa recommended travellers returning from outside Canada in the past two weeks to self-isolate and avoid contact with others for 14 days.
"I am making these recommendations based on the available science and evidence and in consideration of our local circumstances," De Villa said at the time.
"We need to reduce the risk of undetected spread of COVID-19 in people's households, and most importantly, we need to mitigate the impact of this virus and help protect the health of our residents."
There are currently 103 cases of COVID-19 in Ontario, including five patients who have recovered, as of Sunday morning.
Speaking to CTV News Toronto, Pearson airport said that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is responsible for screening, adding that the airport has ramped-up its cleaning procedures in the interim.
“Toronto Pearson has added or enhanced cleaning procedures and will continue to evolve these processes as needed. These include: Additional cleaning staff hours, additional hand sanitizer stations at key terminal locations, access points and other heavily travelled areas to supplement Public Health’s recommendation of frequent hand washing and use of disinfectant wipes and solutions for escalator, moving sidewalk, stairwell and baggage cart handrails and handles.”
CTV News Toronto has reached out to the CBSA but did not hear back in time for publication.
Prime Minister Trudeau responds to screening at airports
In an exclusive interview with CTV's Question Period on Sunday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that mandatory screening and social distancing at Canadian airports is in "the process of happening."
"I've heard directly from our public security officials in CBSA who are bringing in new measures right now," Trudeau said, who is currently in self-isolation at Rideau Cottage after his wife Sophie tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday. "A lot of people who came back from, say the Caribbean or somewhere else on vacation, have said 'well I wasn't really asked much', well they were not coming from a place of concern and therefore there were different protocols."
Trudeau was asked if his government has considered shutting down the Canadian border to international travellers to which he replied that nothing is "off the table."