Feds, provinces considering expanding COVID-19 tests for US travelers amid Omicron – National | Nation World News

Not all Canadian airports will have the capacity to immediately begin testing arriving air travelers from countries other than the United States for COVID-19, the federal health minister said Wednesday.

Feds, provinces considering expanding COVID-19 tests for US travelers amid Omicron - National | Nation World News

Ottawa announced on Tuesday that all air travelers entering Canada, except for those coming from the US, would need to be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival at the airport and isolate until they get their results, even if they are fully vaccinated against the virus .

The stricter measures come as public health officials around the world warn of the potentially dangerous new Omicron variant of COVID-19.

“The directive to put that into place is now active. So the direction is given as of yesterday. And of course that will take time to implement; it will take time,” Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said Wednesday.

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“The speed of implementation will also vary in local airport conditions. There are airports in Canada which can start doing that really quickly because there is excess capacity. Other airports will take a bit more time.”

Duclos didn’t offer any additional details on when the full testing would be up and running. Officials in his department were unable to offer a specific timeline.

On Tuesday, as he and other cabinet colleagues unveiled the new testing measures, Duclos made clear the federal government would cover the costs of the tests, and that all previous COVID-19 testing requirements would remain in place.

The other unknown hanging in the air Wednesday was whether Canada would require currently exempt American air travelers from the testing requirement, or whether the US would reimpose its own travel ban on Canada given that British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Alberta have all reported cases of Omicron — all involving people who recently returned from Nigeria.

The federal government has also closed its border to foreign nationals who have recently traveled through 10 African countries, including Nigeria.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said Wednesday that he has recommended to the president that everybody coming in to the US be required to take a COVID-19 test.

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“You know that the new regulation, if you want to call it that, is that anybody and everybody who’s coming into the country needs to get a test within 24 hours of getting on a plane to come here,” Fauci told the White House briefing Wednesday.

Experts suspect it will take weeks before scientists know whether Omicron is more transmissible, leads to more severe disease, or is capable of evading vaccine protection.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said Wednesday that it was too early to say whether Canada’s latest requirement to test arriving air travelers for COVID-19 would be extended to included US passengers.

The federal government is in discussions with the provinces on that issue but is ready to act to implement such a requirement for incoming US air travelers if necessary, he said.

Click to play video: 'Omicron variant travel rule concerns'

Omicron variant travel rule concerns

Omicron variant travel rule concerns – Dec 1, 2021

“We made a decision right now about testing every traveler coming in from around the world other than the US We are having discussions,” Alghabra said.

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“We need to be prepared and ready if we need to adjust that decision to include travelers from the US We haven’t made that decision yet.”

Alghabra said a decision would be based on “the epidemiology in the US, around the world.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford was noncommittal on Wednesday about whether the testing requirement ought to be extended to include the US

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“The US will have further discussions with the federal government and the other premiers, and the territories as well, to get their input, because it doesn’t just happen in Ontario. It’s right across the border,” said Ford.

Ford said he was pleased the federal government acted so quickly after he “implored them” to take decisive action after the new variant emerged.

As the work continues to determine whether COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the new variant, Ford said “the best thing we can do right now is to fortify our borders. Our best defense is keeping the variant out of our country.”

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube said the federal government reacted quickly with its border closures and new testing requirements.

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As for the latter, he said: “Now, what’s left to show us is when he’ll start that.”

Click to play video: 'What you need to know about the Omicron variant'

What you need to know about the Omicron variant

What you need to know about the Omicron variant – Dec 1, 2021

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said Wednesday that pre-departure tests obtained in the 10 listed African countries are no longer valid and those returning to Canada after traveling through those nations must be tested in a third country.

He said mandatory testing for all air travellers, with the exception of those arriving from the US, “will be coming in the very short-term.”

— With files from James McCarten in Washington, Allison Jones in Toronto and Morgan Lowrie in Montreal.

© 2021 The Canadian Press



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