TORONTO — The federal government is bringing back testing and quarantine requirements for incoming air travellers from all countries except the U.S. to stop the spread of the Omicron variant. The mandate is set to come into effect in the next few days.
All air travellers coming from outside Canada, with the exception of the U.S., will now need to be tested at the airport when they land in Canada, on top of the existing pre-departure test requirement. Those who are vaccinated will have to isolate until they get a negative result, and those who are unvaccinated will continue to have to isolate for the full 14 days.
The emergence of a new COVID-19 variant has Canada’s travel industry bracing for an influx of customer concerns. So far, there have been seven cases of the Omicron variant detected in Canada.
At a news conference on Monday, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore, said the province won’t be taking any immediate steps back in its re-opening plan. “If we see widespread presence of Omicron across Ontario, which is not the case at present, then we could review any measures that we need to take at a provincial level. If it’s a less-lethal virus, less impact on the hospital sector and our vaccines can continue to work against it, we will continue our current strategy and not have to have further public-health restrictions.”
With little known about the new variant and how vaccines will fight against it, travel agents and industry associations worry customers will start cancelling their travel plans, delaying the industry’s recovery even further.
“It all comes down to consumer confidence, and anything that impacts consumers’ confidence to travel is going to have an effect on the travel industry,” says Richard Smart, president and CEO of the Travel Industry Council of Ontario. “An announcement like the one we saw over the weekend has already got the waters rippling.”
Another provincial announcement on enhanced strategy regarding vaccination is expected by the end of the week.