Random coronavirus testing resumes for international passengers arriving in Canada at four major airports.


Mandatory coronavirus tests of randomly selected international passengers arriving in Canada will resume at the country’s four major airports, government officials said on Thursday.

The move comes as Canadian airports grapple with the same types of issues that face air travel around the world, including staff shortages, cancellations, delays and frustrated passengers.

Random tests will resume on July 19 for passengers disembarking at airports in Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Toronto, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Canada requires travelers coming from abroad, including by air, to be fully vaccinated, meaning they get their first set of shots at least 14 days early, but last month the requirement for people traveling by air within Canada was dropped . and for federal transportation workers. Still, travelers who have not been vaccinated because they are exempt or are Canadian must test for the coronavirus for 10 days after flying into Canada from an international airport, and travelers who test positive or have symptoms on arrival must isolate themselves.

“We must maintain border testing measures, as this is how we monitor the importation of the Covid-19 virus and of new variants of concern,” Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said in a press release announcing the policy. †

Canada temporarily halted airport testing just over a month ago, a move the government says would allow testing sites to be moved to locations outside the airports to streamline airport traffic. Similar tests at Canada’s land border with the United States have not been interrupted.

“The temporary pause in mandatory random testing at airports was helpful as it resulted in a smoother experience for arriving passengers,” Julie Bannerjea, a spokeswoman for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, said in an email.

Flight delays were frequent: In June, between 10 and 27 percent of flights at the four airports were delayed by more than 15 minutes, according to data from OAG, a global travel analytics company.

More than 80 percent of Canadians have been fully vaccinated, and nearly half have also received a booster dose, according to data from the federal public health agency; almost 10 percent received two boosters. But the Omicron subvariant known as BA.5 is spreading rapidly in Canada, accounting for more than 40 percent of the country’s new cases in June. The subvariant is especially adept at evading some antibodies from previous infections and vaccines, but experts say there’s no evidence it causes more serious illness.

“With the constant mutation of this virus and what it does in terms of transmission,” said Dr. Howard Njoo, deputy head of public health in Canada, at a news conference Thursday.

He was joined by other senior public health officials to announce that Health Canada had approved Moderna’s Covid vaccine for children aged six months to five years, the first vaccine it has approved for most of that age group. This move will make about 1.7 million children in the country eligible for vaccination. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been available for months for children aged 5 to 11 years and the Moderna vaccine for children aged 6 to 11 years.

While countries around the world have dropped a variety of public health measures in recent months, the World Health Organization said earlier this week that the pandemic remains a global public health emergency, saying “the virus is on the loose and countries are not effectively controlling the burden of disease based on their capacity.” WHO regional officials for Africa on Thursday issued a warning to governments to step up enforcement of public health measures to contain the spread of the virus.

In Europe, where most Covid precautions were relaxed in the spring and the summer travel season is now in full swing, health officials say they are in the midst of a summer virus wave driven by Omicron sub-variants. The Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus reinstated its indoor mask mandate last week.

At least three cities in China have been partially shut down this week as the government continues to try to eradicate new outbreaks of the coronavirus. And in the United States, federal health officials this week urged Americans to do more to protect themselves from Covid amid rising levels of BA.5. “We shouldn’t let it disrupt our lives, but we can’t deny that it’s a reality we have to deal with,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser to the pandemic.

At the four Canadian airports, passengers selected for a mandatory test will be notified by email shortly after completing their customs declaration and told to make an in-person appointment at an outside clinic or pharmacy, or arrange a self -administered test later and attend a virtual appointment.

Masks remain mandatory on flights leaving Canada.

Since the start of the pandemic, air traffic has been at the center of attention for the transmission of the virus.

“Especially when we travel, we have no control over ventilation,” said Marianne Levitsky, an adjunct teacher at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto and a licensed occupational hygienist.

Ms. Levitsky encourages passengers to use the mouthpiece to increase airflow in their space on an airplane, saying wearing a respirator with a strong filter during a flight is “even more important,” especially when the plane is full. .

Adeel Hassan contributed.

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