Travel industry says all COVID mandates need to be lifted to ease delays

By The Canadian Press and Claire Fenton

The head of the Canadian Airports Council says Ottawa’s suspension of randomized COVID-19 testing at customs marks a “big step” toward draining clogged terminals, but that more measures are needed to clear the runway.

Monette Pasher says wait times and arrival tarmac delays at large airports improved immediately after the step went into effect Saturday.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced a day earlier the federal government would pause tests of arriving international passengers selected at random, and that mandatory rapid tests for unvaccinated arrivals will happen off-site starting July 1.

It comes amid hours-long delays in recent months at Canadian airports as travel rebounds following a pandemic hiatus.

“The Government of Canada recognizes the impact that significant wait times at some Canadian airports are having on travellers. We continue to work with airports, airlines, baggage handlers, and other partners to implement solutions to reduce delays as we approach the summer peak season,” the federal government said in a statement.

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) has hired over 850 new screening agents in recent weeks to help deal with delays and get passengers to their gates faster, but many passengers have reported the waits have not improved.

A long lineup of people who are waiting to get through YVR airport but is left in lines for hours

Vancouver International Airport on June 10, 2022. (Submitted)

The airports council and other industry groups are now calling for an end to vaccine mandates for passengers and aviation employees, saying that hundreds more workers could be on the job supporting more travellers.

“Aviation is global. In order to support this industry’s economic recovery and compete globally, Canada must align with the international community and join the list of over 50 countries that have already removed vaccine mandates and COVID protocols for travel,” Pasher wrote on Twitter.

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The government continues to require 14-day quarantines of unvaccinated Canadian passengers and to bar unvaccinated foreigners from entry. Plus, all travellers must use the AriveCAN app.

There are exemptions to Canada’s vaccination requirement, including Ukrainian refugees, but they are still required to provide a negative COVID-19 test or prove they have had a recent COVID-19 infection.

Unvaccinated children coming to Canada who are travelling with vaccinated adults do not have to isolate from school or daycare for 14 days.

The U.S. lifted its requirement for international travellers, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, to take a COVID-19 test prior to boarding flights on Sunday.

Many other countries have lifted their testing requirements for fully vaccinated and boosted travellers in a bid to increase tourism. Canada lifted its requirement in April.

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