Air Canada pushing to drop mandatory quarantine in favour of testing based strategy
Published Tuesday, October 6, 2020 5:20PM EDT
Air Canada is pushing to drop the 14-day mandatory quarantine period for travellers returning to the country in favour of a test-based approach despite multiple flights still landing in the country with COVID-19 positive passengers.
The airline revealed the idea in a social media post on Tuesday, saying that more than 99 per cent of 15,000 voluntary COVID-19 tests taken by international customers at Toronto Pearson International Airport have tested negative.
“We believe that a test-based strategy may be a safe alternative to the 14-day quarantine,” the post said.
The study began on Sept. 3 in partnership with McMaster HealthLabs (MHL) and lasted about a month. Participants were all volunteers who agreed to be tested upon arrival in Toronto. They were then sent home with two additional testing kits and were taught how to take samples after seven days and then 14 days.
They received their first test results back within 48 hours.
Of those that did test positive for COVID-19, Air Canada says that 80 per cent were detected in the initial test and the rest were diagnosed following the second test.
All participants did quarantine for 14 days in order to comply with federal regulations.
Air Canada said that the results are still preliminary and are meant to help gather information in order to help guide future policy decisions.
“Understanding that we will need to live alongside this virus for the short- to medium-term, we have been pursuing relationships and a layered approach as a way to keep our employees and our customers safe,” Dr. Jim Chung, Air Canada's Chief Medical Officer, said in a news release issued last week. “We believe testing will be key to protecting employees and customers until such time as a COVID-19 vaccine is available.”
Chung went on to say that rapid testing may allow governments to relax “blanket travel restrictions and quarantines” while still ensuring the health and safety of the public.
"We are further encouraged in our belief in the effectiveness of testing, including self-administered testing, by the preliminary results from our partnership with MHL and the GTAA. The preliminary results suggest a shorter, test-based strategy may be an available and safe alternative to the 14-day quarantine."
In March, the U.S. and Canadian governments agreed to close the borders to non-essential travel. The ban has been extended numerous times since then, although the Canadian government has recently eased some cross-border travel policies to allow more extended family and international students to enter the country.
A spokesperson for the Public Health Agency of Canada said that regardless of the policy changes, there are no exemptions from the mandatory quarantine period.
“This is because a negative test for COVID-19 doesn’t prove that a traveller is COVID-19 free,” the spokesperson said.
The restrictions have had a serious financial impact on numerous airlines, with many of them choosing to pause operation or suspend certain flights.
At the same time, numerous domestic and international flights have reported COVID-19 positive passengers onboard in the last 12 days of September.
According to the Canadian government, at least 28 domestic flights between Sept. 21 and Oct. 2 have had a traveller onboard that has after-the-fact tested positive for COVID-19.
At least 26 of the flights either landed in or took off from Toronto, which has been categorized as a COVID-19 hotspot due to the soaring number of infections reported each day.
There are also 26 of international flights impacted by a positive case of the novel coronavirus.
Here are the international flights impacted by a case of COVID-19:
- American Airlines flight AA6020 from Philadelphia to Montreal on Sept. 21
- Nippon Airways flight NH116 from Tokyo to Vancouver on Sept. 21
- Air Canada flight AC846 from Toronto to Munich on Sept. 22
- Air Canada/Air India flights AC848/AI7310 from Toronto to London on Sept. 22
- Air France flight AF356 from Paris to Toronto on Sept. 22
- Ethiopian Airlines flight ET553 from Toronto to Addis Ababa on Sept. 22
- Air Canada flight AC855 from London to Vancouver on Sept. 23
- Air Canada flight AC1255 from Kingston, Jamaica to Toronto on Sept. 23
- Air Canada flight AC43 from New Delhi to Toronto on Sept. 24
- Air Canada flight AC45 from New Delhi to Vancouver on Sept. 25
- Air Canada flight AC871 from Paris to Montreal on Sept. 25
- Air Canada flight AC1241 from Cancun to Montreal on Sept. 25
- Ethiopian Airlines flight ET552 from Addis Ababa to Toronto on Sept. 25
- Air Canada flight AC0873 from Frankfurt to Toronto on Sept. 26
- Lufthansa Air flight LH6794 from Frankfurt to Montreal on Sept. 26
- Aeromexico flight AM696 from Mexico City to Vancouver on Sept. 27
- Air India flight AI1143 from Delhi to Vancouver on Sept. 27
- Air Transat flight TS573 from Lyon to Montreal on Sept. 27
- Cathay Pacific flight CS829 from Toronto to Hong Kong on Sept. 27
- Emirates flight EK241 from Dubai to Toronto on Sept. 27
- KLM Royal Dutch airlines flight KL681 from Amsterdam to Vancouver on Sept. 27
- Air Canada flight AC794 from Los Angeles to Toronto on Sept. 29
- Air Canada flight AC80 from Toronto to Tel Aviv on Sept. 29
- Air Canada flight AC992 from Mexico City to Toronto on Sept. 29
- Turkish Airlines flight TK17 from Istanbul to Toronto on Sept 29
- Air Canada/Jazz on flights AC8491/QK8491 from Washington to Toronto on Sept. 20