Welcome to 2021! New year; same topic. Here’s the test situation summarized in one sentence: this new measure that had been impetuously announced with no details Tuesday, not because of any data or evidence but rather because of reports of a few idiotic vacationers in all-inclusives… will be implemented on January 7th, when most of those vacationers who prompted this whole hasty action will have long returned to Canada.
It seems that even for something smart like a test requirement… the federal government can’t get it right.
Here are the details… and an important clarification too.
Mandatory negative COVID-19 test requirement
Here’s what you need to know:
- New measure to be implemented January 7th
- Documentation of a negative laboratory test required
- Must be a molecular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test
- Must be conducted within 72 hours prior to the scheduled boarding
- Must be presented to the airline at the departure airport
- For all travelers flying into Canada from another country
- Travelers under 5 are exempt
- Not mandatory if no test facility is available
- Proof of vaccination cannot replace the negative test
It’s mandatory, but… the government says that if you can prove there was no testing facility you can be admitted on board. Not sure how that will work. How do you even prove that? What they did say is that in that case, travelers would then be forced to go into quarantine in a federally-approved quarantine facility on arrival until testing negative here in Canada (and could then do the “regular” quarantine elsewhere).
It’s also not clear whether taxpayers would cover the cost for that supervised quarantine stay (like we currently and inexplicably pay for the quarantine cost for many people who enter without a place to quarantine).
Since none of this testing requirement plan was really thought through (that is what we decry, as explained in the next section), maybe the government itself doesn’t even know yet…
Anyway, to be very clear: this is not like the Alberta testing pilot project that completely eliminates the quarantine (or what Ontario wants to implement too). You will still have to do the full 14-day quarantine despite the negative test (unless you enter Canada in Alberta and spend 14 days there, as the pilot project is not affected). The results of that pilot project show 1.48% of travelers test positive on arrival, by the way.
What we are saying… and not saying
I’ll take this opportunity to clarify our recent infographic post. The text is clear but some like to pretend we are saying other things that we simply don’t say. We say X, but some assume X means Y and Z too.
When only X is in the post, what we mean is X and nothing else.
Just so we’re very clear about it, here are just 3 of the things we are not saying:
- We are not saying that tests are bad (if you follow us, you know we’ve been saying for weeks that studies show that testing is in fact more effective than the 14-day quarantine)
- We are not saying it’s good to travel right now (that is a whole other topic that we didn’t even mention at all and is unrelated to our point)
- We are not saying that idiots partying without distancing are not idiots (of course they are, but they’re a minority of travelers and that doesn’t mean the whole disproportionate travel-shaming thing going on is justified)
The post had nothing to do with any of that.
We are saying these 5 things:
- Making decisions based on headlines and anecdotes instead of data is not logical
- The government’s own data shows that travelers are only 1.8% of all COVID-19 cases
- It’s not that that is low or not, it’s that it’s objectively a lot less than the 98.2% of cases not related to travel
- With unlimited resources, we could focus on everything but we clearly have very limited resources
- The focus should therefore be on the 98.2% that will have the biggest impact and save the most lives
(We explain more in the post about the initial announcement, including how travel-shaming can even be harmful.)
The government had over 9 months (yes, 9 months… or almost 300 days) to put testing in place in a smart way and do a semblance of work to roll it out somewhat professionally.
Instead, Tuesday, they held a press conference to announce an upcoming test requirement, with absolutely no details provided at all. In the middle of the holiday period, evidently without even having thought through much of the details.
Just last week federal ministers were repeating that the current measures were extremely effective, that only 1.8% of all coronavirus cases are related to international travel despite the 7 million people who entered Canada since April, that 98.2% of cases are from community transmission and that travel was not the problem.
Suddenly, the current measures are no longer effective… based on new data? No. They never mentioned anything scientific or evidence-based that suddenly came up to motivate this haphazard action (and the numbers show there aren’t that many more travelers—who all have to quarantine for 14 days by law anyway).
No, all it took was a few images of idiot vacationers in the media.
Here’s what a source told CBC News about the precipitated announcement:
“It was clear […] that the government had not studied whether or not PCR tests are even available and what the rules would be around who should be denied boarding.”
Anyway, that’s what we want to shed a bit of light on. You can read that CBC article to learn more about how botched the whole process seems to have been, according to experts other than us.
And you can read an introduction about the travel-shaming part, but we’ll have a detailed post about that very soon.
Want to get all the coronavirus updates for Canadian travelers?
Proof of a negative COVID-19 test will be required for all flights to Canada starting January 7th.
What would you like to know about the COVID-19 test requirement? Tell us in the comments below.
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Featured image: COVID-19 testing sketch (photo credit: Radio-Canada’s Bye Bye show)
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