Province offering free, voluntary COVID-19 tests for inbound international travellers at Pearson Airport
Published Wednesday, January 6, 2021 7:50AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 6, 2021 1:55PM EST
The Ontario government is now offering free and voluntary COVID-19 testing for eligible inbound international travellers arriving at Pearson Airport.
Premier Doug Ford made the announcement alongside Health Minister Christine Elliott at a news conference at the Toronto-area airport on Wednesday afternoon.
"It's a game-changer," Ford said on Wednesday. "While we are taking these steps, we are actively working with the federal government to enhance this program and I hope to have more good news to announce in the coming days."
All international travellers flying to Canada must now receive a negative COVID-19 test less than 72 hours prior to departure under new rules recently announced by the federal government.
Elliott said the new voluntary polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test offered by the province adds an "extra layer of protection" for Ontarians.
"Travellers choosing to participate in the pilot will receive a self-administered test that will be supervised by a health-care provider, either in person or by video, in a convenient and dedicated space in terminals one and three here at Toronto Pearson," she said at Wednesday's news conference.
"Test results will be reported into Ontario's lab information system within 48 hours."
Passengers can opt in to the program by registering online or in-person when they arrive at the airport.
A PCR test for COVID-19 costs the province an average of $48, according to the 2020 budget.
As it currently stands, those who participate in the program will still be required to quarantine for 14 days after they arrive in Canada even if they test negative for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
"We will continue to work with the federal government to implement the next stage of our pilot, which would include a modified quarantine period for participants who test negative," Elliott said. "But today's pilot is a great step forward in protecting our borders."
Since September, Ford said, 1,300 flights to Canada have had potential exposure to COVID-19.
"In fact, over 31 international flights with COVID-19 have landed in Toronto in the past two weeks alone, since I last called for tighter restrictions at our borders," he told reporters on Wednesday.
Data released by Public Health Ontario suggests that travel-related COVID-19 cases account for a little more than two per cent of all known cases in the province.
Last month, Ontario ended coverage for COVID-19 tests for passengers who require them for outgoing travel abroad.
Ford's call for tighter restrictions at the border also comes as at least six cases of the UK variant have been detected in Ontario.
A new variant of the virus was first found in England last month and has caused concern among experts as it is believed to be more transmissible.
The discovery has prompted many countries, including Canada, to suspend all inbound commercial and private passenger flights from the UK.
Canada's temporary ban on UK flights is set to expire on Thursday.