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Free COVID-19 testing program launches at Toronto Pearson Airport for international travellers

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Ontario launches COVID-19 pilot program for international travellers' Coronavirus: Ontario launches COVID-19 pilot program for international travellers
WATCH ABOVE: Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott announced the launch of a new COVID-19 testing pilot program on Wednesday that would allow all international travellers coming to Ontario to receive “free and voluntary” coronavirus testing, conducted in terminals 1 and 3 at Toronto Pearson Airport – Jan 6, 2021

The Ontario government said it is launching a pilot program that will test international travellers returning to the province for COVID-19 at Toronto Pearson International Airport as a way to identify and stop the spread of the virus.

“Beginning today, the province, in partnership with the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, will offer free and voluntary COVID-19 testing for international travellers arriving and staying in the province for at least 14 days,” the government said on Wednesday. Testing will be conducted in both Terminal 1 and Terminal 3.

The announcement comes as the federal government’s regulations requiring incoming travellers to provide a negative PCR COVID-19 test within 72 hours comes into effect at 12:01 a.m. ET on Jan. 7.

Read more: Few will be exempted from new COVID-19 testing requirements for travellers, government says

The government said inbound international travellers can pre-register for the program or get tested when they arrive at the airport. Officials said anyone who participates will receive a free, self-collected lab-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test and will be supervised by a health care provider either in-person or by video as the traveller self-administers the test.

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The test results will be reported within 48 hours and local public health units will follow up on any positive tests, the government said.

Regardless if a person tests negative for the test at the airport, international travellers will still be required to self-isolate for 14 days as part of the federal mandatory quarantine.

The Ontario government said this program at Pearson is in addition to the new federal government’s pre-departure requirement for travellers bound to Canada to show proof of negative COVID-19 results from a test taken within three days prior to getting onboard their departure flight.

“The province continues to work with the federal government to explore the next stage of the pilot, including a proposed modified quarantine period for participants who test negative,” the province said.

Premier Doug Ford said more than 60,000 international passengers come into Pearson every week.

“We can’t take any unnecessary risks,” Ford said. “That’s why we’re putting in place this new pilot program to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and respond to new threats like the recent strain of the virus we’re seeing in an alarming number of countries without the same travel restrictions as the U.K.”

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