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At a press conference on Monday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford promised to introduce COVID-19 testing for travellers arriving at Toronto Pearson International Airport.
This comes after a new variant of COVID-19 was detected in the U.K., resulting in the Canadian government halting incoming flights from the country for 72 hours.
“This is an extremely serious threat, one we must take seriously,” Ford said, adding that testing at the airport will allow cases to be caught before they spread in the community.
The premier went on to say that if the federal government does not decide to implement a COVID-19 testing requirement for travellers, the province will go it alone.
“We’ve been in talks with the federal government for weeks upon weeks about doing testing at the airport,” Ford said. “Why they’re ignoring us on this is beyond me.”
The premier highlighted that 64,000 people went through the Toronto airport last week “basically unchecked” and roughly 25 per cent are not quarantining, accusing the federal government of “dragging the ball.”
“These folks are roaming the streets and we’re letting it happen,” he said. “If there’s one area that we need to improve is [our] border.”
“I’m not going to put the people of Ontario at risk just because the federal government doesn’t want to do tests, We will be doing tests no matter if they support us, which I hope they do, or if they don’t support us.”
The premier went on to say the borders are “like a spaghetti drainer” with people not being checked and exemptions for people who are not performing essential work, like truck drivers, healthcare workers and emergency service workers.
In October, the federal government introduced exemptions to border restrictions for family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents, and people who want to come to Canada for compassionate reasons.
“We have to tighten up the borders, it’s as simple as that,” Ford said. “Our recommendation to the federal government was as soon as they land they get tested, they quarantine for seven days, [they] get tested again.”
“I want to work with the federal government...but when we’re getting the door in our face every time we talk, the ball keeps getting thrown down the field, it’s unacceptable. This is a no brainer, either you’re going to help us...or you’re just going to throw up your arms and we’ll do it ourselves.”
Recent data from the international travellers who volunteered for McMaster HealthLabs (MHL) COVID-19 testing study at the Toronto airport revealed that only one per cent tested positive for the virus.
A similar pilot program was executed in Alberta at the Calgary International Airport and the Coutts land border, in conjunction with the federal government, to see if loosen the 14-day quarantine measure for travellers would be possible.
In the past week, 14 flights from international destinations that have come into Canada with confirmed COVID-19 cases on board.