Toronto Pearson Airport again urges feds to halt random COVID testing amid delays

Click to play video: 'The federal government forms task force, hires new screeners amid airport delays'
The federal government forms task force, hires new screeners amid airport delays
WATCH ABOVE: The federal Minister of Transport says a task force will look into bottlenecks at checkpoints staff will help during peak hours as some passengers at Toronto Pearson Airport experience significant delays. Marianne Dimain reports. – Jun 9, 2022

The operator of Toronto Pearson Airport is again urging the federal government to take further action to ease delays being faced by passengers.

The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) said Thursday that it wants to see the federal government temporarily pause random COVID-19 testing.

“In anticipation of a new wave of business and family travellers, we urge the government to act immediately to temporarily pause random testing on arrival in airports for an immediate improvement until upgrades to the Government’s ArriveCan app have been made,” a GTAA statement said.

GTAA said that in a few days, international passenger numbers are expected to increase by 50 per cent.

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GTAA has for weeks been calling on the federal government to drop the random COVID-19 test requirement for arriving international passengers, citing it as one of the main reasons behind delays at the airport. Staffing shortages have also been cited as a key problem.

The authority has previously called for the random test requirement to be dropped, but in Thursday’s statement requested a “temporary pause.”

“In May of this year, 2,700 arriving flights were affected by metering or holding, affecting the travel plans of over 490,000 international arriving passengers,” the statement said.

“Travellers are being further delayed because of the time it takes to select passengers for random testing.”

Last week, the federal government announced that it was extending COVID-related border measures, including the random testing requirement, until at least the end of June.

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The federal government and other federal agencies have set up a task force to address the delays. Federal officials have said that a variety of factors are to blame for the delays, including staffing shortages.

A joint statement by the ministers of transport, health, tourism, and public safety released Wednesday cited the recent hiring of more Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) officers and 25 additional Canada Border Services Agency kiosks at Pearson as ways the government is working to address the problem.

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The feds also previously dropped the random COVID-19 test requirement for the international to domestic connections process.

“Our efforts are having an impact – as wait times for security continue to decrease at all major airports,” the ministers’ statement said.

“While we are seeing some issues at Toronto Pearson International Airport that we have raised with the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, the vast majority of airports across the country are not seeing similar delays. Even then, thanks to the efforts of Pearson Airport, Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), and air sector workers, only three per cent of all passengers at Pearson and Vancouver International Airport are now waiting more than 30 minutes in line.”

The GTAA thanked the federal government for “the progress that has been achieved” thus far, but said more action needs to be taken.

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“The stakes have never been higher, and the world is watching,” said GTAA president and CEO Deborah Flint.

“We’re thankful for the steps that the federal government has taken and their recognition that more needs to be done. This is about much more than Toronto Pearson; it’s about global perceptions of our country and the risk that Canada will lose billions of dollars from tourism and business activities if travellers decide that coming to Canada this summer simply isn’t worth the hassle.

“Toronto Pearson’s challenges are unique simply due to scale by virtue of the fact that we are Canada’s largest airport and global hub for connectivity all over the world, with much higher volumes of passengers and, importantly, more international passengers than any other Canadian airport.”

Click to play video: 'Trudeau grilled on airport delays as COVID-19 rules remain'
Trudeau grilled on airport delays as COVID-19 rules remain

Public Health Agency of Canada spokesperson Tammy Jarbeau told Global News Thursday that COVID restrictions are continuously reviewed to ensure they are “current and relevant to protecting the health and safety of Canadians.”

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“Like every other element of the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 response, border measures are informed by available data, operational considerations, scientific evidence and monitoring of the epidemiological situation both in Canada and internationally,” Jarbeau said.

“In recent months, we have slowly and carefully started to reopen and restart activities.”

She said the government continues to monitor the situation and will adapt Canada’s approach on travel measures as needed.

Global News also reached out to Transport Canada for an updated statement Thursday but didn’t receive a response by the time of publication.

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