If you’re travelling back to Canada from an international trip through four of the country’s major airports — Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Toronto — you may be selected for a random COVID-19 test starting Tuesday.
Ottawa has brought back mandatory random testing after the federal government halted it on June 11. However, new for this round, testing will be done offsite either by an in-person appointment at select testing provider locations and pharmacies, or by a virtual appointment for a self-swab test.
Travellers will be notified by an email within 15 minutes of completing the CBSA’s customs declaration. Both vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers could be selected for the test.
According to the federal government, travellers who do not qualify as fully vaccinated, unless exempt, must continue to test on day one and day eight of their mandatory 14-day quarantine. If selected for the random test, unvaccinated travellers will be able to complete their tests by a virtual appointment or by an in-person appointment with a test provider at select stores or pharmacies to stay within their mandatory quarantine requirements.
To qualify as a fully vaccinated traveller to Canada, travellers must have been vaccinated with a primary series of a COVID-19 vaccines accepted by the Government of Canada for the purpose of travel at least two weeks before entering Canada.
According to a government handout, if a traveller’s arrival test result is positive, they must go into isolation and follow the federal requirement to isolate for 10 days from the date of the test result. Even if the isolation requirement is shorter in a traveller’s province or territory, the federal government requires the full 10 days of isolation.
At Toronto’s Pearson airport, some travellers said they had a smooth experience on arrival Tuesday morning, despite bracing for the worst.
Kerry Carstairs arrived on a flight from Newark, N.J., for a business trip and said she expected to be dogged by long lines and problems with documentation. Instead, she said, “it couldn’t have been easier.”
“I was impressed with the technology, so didn’t really have to talk to a soul, then, just went to the first customs official, they asked me a few questions, and I was off,” she said, adding she was not selected for a random test.
Bill Mcdonald said he’s familiar with the recent airport chaos, taking work trips to Toronto around once every two months.
But when he arrived from Minneapolis, Minn., on Tuesday, he was off the plane and through customs in a “matter of minutes” without having been selected for a random test, he said.
“It could’ve been time of day, not sure, but it was just perfect,” he added.
Deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo has previously said random mandatory testing is an important part of Canada’s strategy to detect new variants coming in to the country.
Meantime, random testing continues at land border points of entry.
—with files from The Canadian Press