New border testing rules could be confusing for enforcers, passengers: Airlines

From Global News – link to source story

By Jon Victor  The Canadian Press ~ December 31, 2020

An Air Canada Airbus A321 jet (C-FGKN) takes off from Vancouver International Airport, Richmond, B.C. on Friday, November 20, 2020 on a cross-border flight between Vancouver and Los Angeles.
An Air Canada Airbus A321 jet (C-FGKN) takes off from Vancouver International Airport, Richmond, B.C. on Friday, November 20, 2020 on a cross-border flight between Vancouver and Los Angeles. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Bayne Stanley

The National Airlines Council of Canada said there are still major issues that need to be addressed as Ottawa rolls out a COVID-19 testing requirement for air passengers arriving from abroad.

The group’s comments come as the federal government said Thursday that as of Jan. 7, all air passengers five years of age or older will be required to test negative for COVID-19 before traveling by from another country to Canada.

Prior to boarding a flight to Canada, passengers will have to present airlines with documentation of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to their scheduled departure, the government said.

Mike McNaney, the NACC’s president and CEO, said additional clarity is needed regarding the format in which passengers must present their testing results and passengers’ options if their jurisdiction does not offer the kind of test the government accepts.

“We fully support testing and the implementation of a testing strategy and regime,” McNaney said. “But the objective is to do it in a consistent and thorough fashion, and to tie it to quarantine measures.”

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: People flying into Canada will soon be facing tough new measures'

The National Airlines Council of Canada is an industry group that represents the country’s major carriers, including Air Canada, Air Transat and WestJet.

McNaney added that the lack of consultation with airlines on the new measures risks creating confusion for airlines, passengers and front-line government workers trying to enforce the rules.

Yves-Francois Blanchet, the leader of the Bloc Quebecois, said the testing requirement should apply to all border crossings, not just to airports. He also said the government should reimburse anyone out of the country who finds themselves with extra costs as a result of the planned rules.

Along with requests for financial assistance, industry groups representing airlines and airports have called on the government to replace the mandatory 14-day quarantine for international travellers with a program that tests airline passengers on arrival in Canada.

However, the measures announced Thursday would not replace the existing quarantine period, government officials said.

Daniel-Robert Gooch, president of the Canadian Airports Council, said that although the group approved of testing international travellers, he was concerned that the testing requirement coupled with the 14-day quarantine was overly restrictive for passengers.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Canadian health official says other COVID-19 ‘variants of concern’ will likely be found'

On Thursday afternoon, Unifor, a trade union that represents 300,000 airline workers, renewed its call for government assistance for the airline sector in light of the new testing requirement.

“Yesterday’s announcement is important to protect the public safety of all Canadians, but at the same time, the federal government’s continued refusal to provide adequate financial support for the 300,000 airline workers puts the very future of Canada’s airline industry in jeopardy,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National president.

Pre-departure COVID-19 testing and negative results to be required for all air travellers coming to Canada

OTTAWA, ON, Dec. 31, 2020 /CNW/ – The COVID-19 pandemic has created a global crisis that is having a significant impact on the air industry and all travellers. The Government of Canada has multiple measures in place to protect the health and safety of Canadians, and to help prevent air travel from being a source of further introduction and spread of COVID-19 and new variants of the virus into Canada.

Since March 13, 2020, the Government of Canada has strongly advised against non-essential travel, and that travel restrictions and measures can be amended at any time as necessary for public health reasons.

The Minister of Transport, the Honourable Marc Garneau, is requiring that, effective January 7, 2021, at 12:01 a.m. EST, all air passengers five years of age or older will be required to test negative for COVID-19 before travelling from another country to Canada. This implementation date provides all airlines, both foreign and domestic, adequate time to comply with the new requirements.

Documentation of a negative laboratory test result must be presented to the airline prior to boarding a flight to Canada. The test must be performed using a COVID-19 molecular polymerase chain reaction (or PCR) test and must be taken within 72 hours prior to the traveller’s scheduled departure to Canada.

Anyone who receives a negative test result and is authorized to enter Canada must still complete the full, mandatory 14-day quarantine.

The Government of Canada will be further increasing surveillance efforts to ensure travellers entering Canada complete the applicable mandatory 14-day quarantine period under the Quarantine Act.

As has been the case for months, all travellers will have their quarantine plans reviewed by a government official and, if not suitable, will be required to quarantine in a federal quarantine facility. Travellers to Canada must use the ArriveCAN App or website and provide accurate contact information and their mandatory 14-day quarantine plan on or before entry.

Violating any instructions provided when you enter Canada is an offence under the Quarantine Act and could lead to up to six months in prison and/or $750,000 in fines.

Canadians who are currently travelling and returning to Canada soon should start immediately arranging for a COVID-19 test, to avoid a delay in their return to Canada. Canadians who are planning to travel abroad should consider how they will meet these requirements before departure.


“Our government remains committed to protecting the health and safety of Canadians. These new measures will provide another layer of protection for Canadians as we continue to assess public health risks and work to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Canada.”

Minister of Transport, The Honourable Marc Garneau

“Since the emergence of COVID-19, we have had in place strong measures to prevent the importation of COVID-19 cases. Starting on January 7, we will require travellers coming to Canada to test negative for COVID-19 before boarding their flight. The 14-day quarantine will also remain in place. We can all work together to save lives. Stay in Canada and follow public health guidelines to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community.”

Minister of Health, The Honourable Patty Hajdu

“As the global situation evolves, we continue to work with our partners to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 into Canada at all international ports of entry. The new testing requirement is an additional layer of protection that helps make Canada’s border measures among the strongest in the world. The testing regime is not a replacement for the legal requirement to quarantine, which remains our strongest defence against the spread of the virus.”

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, The Honourable Bill Blair

”The COVID-19 situation continues to show its unpredictable and rapidly changing nature. We, therefore, need to implement additional quick and effective actions to protect the health and safety of all Canadians. We still strongly advise against non-essential travel outside Canada as the likelihood of sudden restrictions and additional requirements during the pandemic may result in travellers facing difficult and stressful circumstances while abroad. We all need to do our part so that we can get through this challenging time together.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne

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Ottawa set to detail requirements of COVID-19 negative test for air travellers today

From – link to source story

People line up and check in for an international flight at Pearson International airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

The Canadian Press | Thursday, December 31, 2020

OTTAWA — The federal government is expected to provide details later today on its plan to make travellers test negative for COVID-19 before landing in Canada.

The Liberals announced Wednesday that all passengers on flights entering the country will soon be required to have a negative PCR test three days before their arrival.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau was in talks with airlines as the announcement was made.

The National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents the country’s largest airlines, said Wednesday it had asked the government for months to introduce a co-ordinated testing regime in consultation with the industry.

The new testing requirement will only apply for air travellers, but Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet argued on Thursday that it should apply at all ports of entry.

He also said in a statement that the government should reimburse thousands of Canadians for travel plans that have been interrupted or cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.

It is essential that Canadians understand that personal sacrifices are key to helping end the pandemic, Blanchet said.

Canada’s two largest provinces on Thursday reported new record highs of COVID-19 cases.

Ontario reported 3,328 new cases and 56 more deaths linked to the virus, matching the highest death toll from the first wave.

In Quebec, there were 2,819 new cases and 62 deaths. The province also said 3,942 doses of vaccine were administered on Wednesday, for a total of 29,250.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 31, 2020.

Airline industry needs additional financial support given new COVID-19 tests requirement

TORONTO, Dec. 31, 2020 /CNW/ – Unifor renews demands on the federal government to provide financial support for the airline industry as the industry prepares for all international travellers to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test on arrival.

“Yesterday’s announcement is important to protect  the public safety of all Canadians, but at the same time, the federal government’s continued refusal to provide adequate financial support for the 300,000 airline workers puts the very future of Canada’s airline industry in jeopardy,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc announced a new protocol to require travelers arriving in Canada to provide a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, conducted within 72 hours before boarding a plane. The government expects the new rule to be in place within a week.

“Countries around the world have provided support to its airline industries because they recognize that maintaining a strong aviation sector is the key to a post-COVID-19 economic recovery. In addition to airline pilots, gate agents, ground crew and other staff, airport limo drivers, mechanics, air traffic controllers, and workers that maintain the airports all need their government to have a plan to allow them to maintain their skills and be ready to work once the restrictions are lifted,” said Dias.

The union continues to lobby the federal government to develop a national aviation plan to provide financial support for workers and address the systemic issues contributing to the problem of too much precarious work in the aviation industry.

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

Halifax International Airport Authority Announces Successful Completion of Bondholder Consent Solicitation

HALIFAX, NS, Dec. 31, 2020 /CNW/ – Halifax International Airport Authority (“HIAA“) announced today that it has successfully obtained the requisite approval of holders (“Bondholders“) of all outstanding series of obligation bonds and pledged bonds (‘the “Bonds“) under the previously announced solicitation of consents (the “Consent Solicitation“) with respect to amendments (the “Amendments“) to the trust indenture governing the Bonds (the “Indenture“) and has entered into a fourth supplemental indenture dated December 31, 2020 (the “Fourth Supplemental Indenture“) to give effect to the Amendments.

The Amendments, which were described in the consent solicitation statement (the “Solicitation Statement“) dated December 11, 2020 distributed to the Bondholders, will temporarily relieve HIAA from its obligations to meet certain debt service coverage ratios and to satisfy such ratios and certain other requirements in incurring additional indebtedness or in proceeding to sell, lease or dispose of any material portion of its property and assets in respect of its 2020, 2021 and 2022 fiscal years (the “Amendment Period“).

As reported by Computershare Trust Company of Canada (the “Tabulation Agent”), Bondholders representing 99.52% of the aggregate principal amount of all outstanding Bonds, determined in accordance with the terms of the Indenture, validly delivered a consent form (the “Consent Form”) to the Tabulation Agent prior to 5 p.m. (Toronto time) on December 29, 2020 (the “Expiration Time”), confirming their consent to the extraordinary resolution to approve the Amendments (the “Extraordinary Resolution”).

During the Amendment Period, HIAA will disclose in its regular quarterly financial reporting to the trustee under the Indenture (on behalf of Bondholders) if available liquidity at the end of a quarter is below CDN $20 million.

In accordance with the Solicitation Statement, HIAA will pay a consent fee (“Consent Fee“) equal to $1.00 for each $1,000 outstanding principal amount of the Bonds in respect of which a valid Consent Form was received prior to the Expiration Time, through the Tabulation Agent, regardless of whether or not the Bondholder elected to consent to the Extraordinary Resolution.  Bondholders entitled to the Consent Fee should contact their broker or intermediary for further information.

RBC Dominion Securities Inc. acted as solicitation agent, Stewart McKelvey acted as legal advisor to HIAA, and Gowling WLG acted as legal advisor to the solicitation agent in connection with the Consent Solicitation.

New COVID test requirements for travellers ‘step in the right direction’: Regina Airport CEO

From CBC News link to source story

CEO says some issues remain for those who test negative, but still have to isolate

CBC News · Posted: Dec 31, 2020

Regina Airport Authority CEO and president James Bogusz says a recent annoucement from the federal goverment that will require travellers to Canada to have proof of a negative COVID-19 test will not have an immediate effect on the airport. (John Hill/Twitter)

Anyone hoping to travel to Canada will soon require proof of a negative COVID-19 test before they can enter the country, but the new requirements won’t have much effect on Saskatchewan airports.

The change was announced on Wednesday, with Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc saying the new measures will be put in place “quickly” without providing a specific date.

Under the new requirements, travellers will be required to receive a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test no longer than 72 hours before boarding a plane to Canada.

However, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said the new measures are “not an alternative to quarantine,” but an additional layer of protection.

Regina Airport Authority president and CEO James Bogusz said that since all of the airport’s flights are currently coming from other Canadian hubs, like Calgary and Toronto, the change won’t have an immediate effect at YQR.

He said that while the new requirements are a “step in the right direction,” he doesn’t see the change resulting in a big boost in traffic for the airport, as people still have to isolate for 14 days if they travel internationally, even with a negative test. 

He hopes that once the measures are fully in place, the federal government will start moving toward shortening isolation periods for those who test negative. 

Bogusz pointed to a pilot program underway at the Calgary International Airport where those who are tested and come back negative upon returning to Canada may not have to isolate for as long, on the condition they follow public-health guidelines. 

He said that if the new requirement leads to a more widespread application of that program, it may help increase travel demand.

Officials with Skyxe Saskatoon Airport said in a statement that any conversations or dialogue around on-site testing in Saskatoon are in the very preliminary stages.

“Most Canadian airports, including Skyxe Saskatoon Airport, are assessing with various stakeholders the potential effectiveness of on-site COVID testing with respect to quarantine periods and implications for airport processing as we maintain our paramount overall objective of safe air travel,” indicated the statement.

“While the air travel benefit appears clear, stakeholder discussions regarding our options will continue as we assess alignment with Public Health guidance.”

With files from CBC News

Air travellers entering Canada must have a negative COVID-19 test before arrival, Ottawa says

From CBC News – link to source story

CBSA has also boosted its presence in airports to reinforce public health messaging

Raisa Patel · CBC News · Dec 30, 2020

Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair says border officers are beefing up their presence in Canadian airports to reinforce public health messaging as the federal government moves to implement negative COVID-19 test requirements for incoming travellers. (Adiran Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Air passengers entering Canada will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before arriving in the country, the federal government announced today.

Travellers must receive a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test within a 72-hour period prior to boarding a plane — a requirement Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said will be in place “quickly,” though he did not provide an exact date.

The measure does not replace the federal government’s mandatory 14-day quarantine period, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair warned.

“This is not an alternative to quarantine. It’s an additional layer,” Blair said during a public health briefing.

The Canada Border Services Agency also will be increasing its presence at airports across Canada, the minister said.

“Additional border officers will be present at various positions to reinforce compliance messaging,” Blair said, adding that teams already have been sent to customs and baggage areas and inspection lines to speak to travellers about their obligations — and the consequences of failing to follow the rules.

The federal government has advised against non-essential travel outside Canada since the start of the pandemic, though officials noted Wednesday that about two per cent of COVID-19 cases have been brought into the country from overseas.

The new measures come as Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips is under fire over news that he had travelled to the Caribbean island of St. Barts for a personal vacation earlier this month. Phillips is on his way back to Canada after Ontario Premier Doug Ford demanded his return.

Quebec Liberal MNA Pierre Arcand has also received criticism for visiting Barbados during the holidays, a trip Arcand now says he regrets.

Hundreds of thousands of travellers at Toronto Pearson to be tested for COVID-19 in early 2021

From Vancouver Sun – link to source story

Jesse Snyder | Dec 30, 2020

A person wearing a mask walks through Toronto Pearson Airport’s Terminal 1 on May 20, 2020. PHOTO BY PETER J. THOMPSON/NATIONAL POST

OTTAWA — The Ontario and federal governments are preparing to unveil a joint COVID-19 rapid testing program at the province’s biggest airport as early as next week, as both sides seek to deflect blame for a growing number of travel-related cases entering Canada.

A spokesperson for Ontario Premier Doug Ford said a new pilot program to test international travellers entering Canada through Toronto Pearson International Airport would be unveiled “in the early new year.” The plan is likely to test roughly 315,000 travellers for COVID-19 over a three-month period, but the arrangement has not yet been finalized, the person said.

Those hopes come after weeks of failed negotiations between the two governments, who have sparred in recent weeks after Premier Ford claimed that Ottawa has failed in its duty to secure the Canadian border during the pandemic.

“We’ve continually — and I’m going to repeat this, continually — asked the federal government to secure our borders,” Ford said in a press conference last week, when he imposed sweeping new lockdowns across the province.

Ford denounced the federal government in particular for what he called a failure to enforce mandatory testing at airports, which he said has in turn raised the overall number of new cases in the province. Some critics viewed his comments as an attempt to deflect blame for rising COVID-19 cases in the province.

Ford’s concerns have taken on a heightened urgency in recent days after a new strain of COVID-19, first identified in the U.K., was confirmed in Ontario this weekend. Quebec on Tuesday also confirmed its first case of the variant, which is thought to be much more contagious than earlier strains.

Ford’s comments prompted some pushback from the federal health and public safety ministers, who sought to reiterate some of the measures they’ve introduced, including penalties for travellers who do not abide by the 14-day quarantine period and rudimentary contact tracing efforts.

The Public Health Agency of Canada issued a press release on Tuesday that again repeated those measures, saying the federal government “continues to advise against non-essential travel and reminds all travellers returning to Canada that contravening the mandatory quarantine can lead to severe penalties.”

More than 180 contract tracing officials are currently making over 4,600 calls per day to identify potential cases, PHAC said. Authorities have so far levelled 130 fines and charged another eight travellers who broke quarantine rules or other directives. “Verbal warnings” have been issued to 185 people, and written warnings to 20, the department said.

Federal ministers have sought to distance themselves from criticism over border security, and have said they are working with some provinces to introduce testing at airports.

“I’m surprised by the Premier of Ontario’s comments,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said in response to Ford last week. “We have been working with his government on his request to conduct a testing pilot project at Pearson International Airport for weeks.”

Alberta partnered with the federal government in October to begin a pilot testing program at the Calgary airport and Coutts border crossing to identify positive COVID-19 cases.

Differing views over border security also comes amid recent media reports of politicians taking personal trips outside the country in recent weeks, raising fresh doubts over whether some are prepared to endure the restrictions they impose. Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips took an international trip with his wife in mid-December, just weeks before the Ford government imposed strict lockdowns on the province.

And Quebec Liberal MNA Pierre Arcand is currently in the West Indies with his wife. In a statement obtained by Presse Canadienne, the former interim leader of the Quebec Liberal Party confirmed he was in Barbados, “one of the safest places in the world right now,” and that he regretted his decision “given the current situation in Quebec and the respect we owe to health workers.”

The trips come at a time when federal authorities have repeatedly advised against non-essential international travel, and as Ontario and Quebec plead with people to follow pandemic restrictions.

International travel accounts for only a small portion of new COVID-19 cases, according to public figures. But data on international travel is limited due to the absence of testing at airports, and people have continued to flow in and out of the country even as pandemic restrictions remain in place.

Over the last two weeks, government officials have identified 24 international flights entering Pearson airport with positive COVID-19 cases. Another 10 positive flights departed Toronto to other destinations, including three to Delhi. Other positive cases left Toronto for Mexico City, London and Dublin, among other destinations.

The proposal to test just over 300,000 travellers entering Pearson airport over three months is a fraction of the roughly 750,000 total travellers who arrive over the same period, according to public data.

Ontario officials in November initially proposed testing 900,000 travellers over six months, which was ultimately rejected by the federal health department, according to one provincial official.

Ontario currently has the capacity to test roughly 100,000 people per day, province-wide.

Total new infections in Ontario from travel have been sizeable, but much smaller than those caused by community spread, potentially because travel-related infections are confined to single aircraft. As of Dec. 27, a total of 3,945 travel-related COVID-19 cases had been confirmed in Ontario — 114 of which arrived in the last week.

By comparison, “community spread” has been responsible for 33,276 cases, and “close contact” cases for 71,310, according to government data.

With files from the Montreal Gazette