On January 17, Chief Medical Officers (CMO) of Health for Air Canada, Toronto Pearson, and WestJet sent an open letter urging Government of Canada to work with Ontario and immediately implement 3 measures at Ontario airports. The letter was penned by Dr. Jim Chung (CMO – Air Canada), Dr. Edward Wasser (CMO – Toronto Pearson), and Dr. Tammy McKnight (CMO – WestJet Airlines).
This letter was addressed to Jean-Yves Duclos (Minister of Health), Dr. Theresa Tam (Chief Public Health Officer of Canada), Christine Elliott (Deputy Premier of Ontario and Minister of Health), and Dr. Kieran Moore (Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health).
New Recommendations were made on the following facts:
- All travelers do pre-arrival PCR test prior to getting on a plane inbound to Canada and are fully vaccinated, so there is no good public health rationale for a second test upon arrival.
- Recent average positivity rate is 3% at airports as compared to 30% within Canada.
- This 30% positive rate could be even higher due to the under-reporting of positivity from a lack of tests.
- A recent study prepared for the Manchester Airports Group found that travel testing at best delayed the peak of cases by no more than 5 days, and made total case counts only 3 per cent lower.
The letter further quoted “We know that the primary concern for Omicron is in the community. By extension, the primary need for testing is in our community; not at our airports. Now is the time to act.” In the light of above mentioned reasons, the letter called on the Government of Canada to work with Ontario and implement the following measures immediately :
- Remove mandatory arrivals testing from airports and shift these scarce resources to our schools, community and healthcare system.
- Revert to surveillance arrival testing of international air passengers.
- Require mandatory isolation for persons arriving from an international location if they are exhibiting symptoms or test positive on a surveillance test. Travellers who are asymptomatic after receiving their negative pre-departure test before travel to Canada should not be required to isolate.
In the end, letter stated as we quote “we have achieved a positivity rate that is ten times less than community spread. Now is the time to shift testing resources to where they’re needed most. Removing arrivals PCR testing from Toronto Pearson airport alone would free up 8,000 tests a day for the GTA, which will help keep our most vulnerable—those in long-term care, hospitals and our children attending school—safe.”