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Canadian airline industry's big players request scrapping of mandatory COVID-19 testing for arrivals

But YVR is not backing Air Canada, WestJet and Toronto airport's bid to get the federal government to divert testing capacity to communities
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COVID-19 testing staff await the arrival of passengers at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport

Mandatory COVID-19 testing for airline passengers arriving in Canada should be dropped, according to the country’s largest airlines and biggest airport.

Air Canada, WestJet and Toronto Pearson International Airport have written an open letter to the federal and Ontario governments requesting the scrapping of the mandatory tests.

Instead, the three giants of the airline industry in Canada want to see the testing capacity currently being used at international airports across the country shifted to local communities.

However, Vancouver International Airport told Glacier Media that its federal arrivals testing program is not draining resources from B.C.'s public COVID-19 testing program.

In the last few weeks, many provinces, including B.C., have been asking people not to seek a COVID-19 PCR test, due to the high demand and spike in cases from the virus’ Omicron variant.

But the airlines and the airport are pointing out to the respective governments that there is much more risk of the virus spreading in the community, than from passengers arriving in Canada.

And given that travellers coming into Canada already need to have a pre-arrival negative molecular test result for COVID-19, the three big players are suggesting it’s superfluous to then test people again on arrival.

The airlines and airport also said in their letter that the percentage of positive tests for those checked at Canada's airports in the most recent week is far lower than tests in the community.

But a spokesperson for YVR said that "each region of the country is experiencing its own circumstances with managing the transmission of COVID-19.

"At YVR, we will continue to collaborate with provincial and federal health authorities and agencies, as well as our many airport partners, as global testing and travel measures evolve. This includes a regular daily exchange of information and data with government and partners."

The spokesperson added that, on a national level, it "continues to advocate for ongoing evaluation of the border processes, using science-based data and applying learnings from other international models to set entry requirements that protect the health of our community and those who wish to travel here."

The aforementioned airlines and Pearson are asking the government to revert to random arrival testing of international travellers and only require isolation for those arriving from an international location if they are exhibiting symptoms or test positive on a random test.

They say those who do not have any symptoms after a negative pre-departure test before travel to Canada should not be required to isolate.

A Richmond News reader, a senior, wrote a letter to the editor last week, telling of “COVID testing chaos” at YVR, where she said there were “long lines” for testing, where officials separated her from her husband.