Canada to Suspend Random COVID Testing at Airports and Suspend Vaccine Mandates for Domestic Travel

Canada is suspending random COVID-19 testing at all its airports for the rest of June to ease the long wait times that travellers have encountered in recent weeks. The random testing will be discontinued from June 11 and will resume “off-site” on July 1, the statement said.

Random testing was blamed by some industry officials for lengthening already long wait times at airports. Toronto’s Pearson airport has had planes stuck at gates and hours-long security lines because of staffing shortages.

The government “recognizes the impact that significant wait times at some Canadian airports are having on travellers,” the statement said, adding that it would continue to “implement solutions to reduce delays as we approach the summer peak season.”

Suzanne Acton-Gervais, interim president of the National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC) which represents Air Canada and privately held WestJet Airlines, said the move “will improve conditions at Canada’s airports and reduce complexity for travellers.” Officials at Pearson had no immediate comment.

Airlines around the globe that faced a travel slump during the pandemic have been counting on a strong summer. The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) has hired 865 screening officers since April to help manage an increase in travellers.

Source: Reuters
Source: Globe and Mail

Seventh COVID Wave Possible This Fall, Tam Tells MPs: ‘The Pandemic is Not Over’

Canada’s chief public officer stressed to MPs that the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing, warning that a seventh wave this fall is a real threat. “The pandemic is not over,” Dr. Theresa Tam told MPs, at the Commons health committee. “We think that it is very likely that we will get some more viral activity in the future, and we can’t predict exactly how big the next wave is, but I think we need to prepare.”

Tam testified to MPs as part of the review of health spending this year. She said she is concerned that some of the subvariants of the COVID-19 Omicron variant could be a problem, but she is also concerned that other, new variants could emerge.

She said two doses of the vaccine are only 20% effective against Omicron, with effectiveness rising to 60% for three doses. “Omicron was a game-changer, is a game-changer,” Tam said. “Prior to that, two doses of a vaccine for example, had very high efficacy against infection as well as severe outcomes.” Vaccines proved less effective in providing immunity to Omicron, however the variant itself produced generally milder symptoms and was less likely to result in severe outcomes.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos also testified at the committee, where he was pressed by Conservative MP Michael Barrett about when the current federal vaccine and mask mandates for air and train travel would end. The current vaccine mandates have been extended until the end of June, but the government has been unwilling to say if they will be extended again. As more Canadians return to traveling, some of the new rules, including mandatory proof of vaccines for air travel and requiring negative COVID tests to enter Canada, have led to considerable delays in Canadian airports. Many other western nations have already removed their mandates.

Duclos said they rely on Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) advice and said politicians should remember that the virus is still actively circulating. “The timeline is reviewed every week, so it could be any time. It could be later, and that depends on the evidence and the advice that is provided by experts within PHAC,” he said. “Between January and May we have had 10,000 people losing their lives and 60,000 hospitalizations (from COVID).”

Source: National Post