Ontario gov't no longer providing free COVID-19 tests for international travellers
A man rides a escalator wearing mandatory masks at Toronto's Pearson International Airport for a "Healthy Airport" during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)
Published Monday, December 14, 2020 9:22AM EST
The Ontario government will no longer provide free COVID-19 tests for those looking to be cleared for international travel.
In a news release issued Monday morning, the Progressive Conservative government said the decision was made in order to “ensure taxpayer dollars are appropriately allocated to key priorities and to preserve capacity within the provincially funded COVID-19 testing network.”
According to the 2020 budget, each COVID-19 test costs Ontario taxpayers $48.
"As the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic has changed, we have continued to adapt our approach to testing and the services we have made available," Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a statement.
"While international travellers are no longer eligible to receive a publicly funded COVID-19 test, we remain committed to ensuring that anyone who needs a test can get one quickly, at no cost."
In September, the government announced that select pharmacies across Ontario would be offering COVID-19 tests to asymptomatic people looking to confirm whether or not they may have the disease. The tests were supposed to be limited to front-line workers, essential caregivers or asymptomatic people who were a close contact of someone who previously tested positive for COVID-19—but many who wanted peace of mind before travelling also got a test.
The change to the province’s testing guidelines came into effect on Dec. 11.
The cost of a COVID-19 test at Shoppers Drug Mart for international travellers is now $199, plus tax.
For travellers coming into Canada, the federal 14-day quarantine measure still applies.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has long advocated to replace the quarantine measure with rapid COVID-19 testing.
“I want to start getting people tested as they're coming off rather than isolating for 14 days. Let's get them tested immediately when they come off the plane and test them again five or six days later,” Ford said back in November.
A pilot program was launched at both Calgary International Airport and the Coutts border crossing in Alberta last month. International travelers receive a COVID-19 test upon entering Canada before going into quarantine. If the test comes back negative, those travellers are allowed to leave quarantine, but will have to take another test six or seven days after their initial arrival.