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Ontario launches free innovative testing program at Pearson Airport

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Ontario launches free innovative testing program at Pearson Airport — TORONTO, ON. Jan. 6, 2021 — The Ontario government has announced today that it is launching a new innovative, voluntary and free border testing pilot program at Toronto Pearson International Airport for eligible international travellers returning to Ontario to help quickly identify and stop the spread of COVID-19 in the province.

Details were provided today at Pearson airport by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones.

Toronto Pearson International Airport Dec. 2020. Pilot received special permission to capture these images only because flights were grounded due to COVID. YouYube nyefamiy1 screengrab by Mark Nye

“With over 60,000 international passengers coming into Pearson airport every week, we can’t take any unnecessary risks,” said Premier Ford. “That’s why we’re putting in place this new pilot program to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and respond to new threats like the recent strain of the virus we’re seeing in an alarming number of countries without the same travel restrictions as the U.K. The test will be free for eligible travellers and I encourage everyone to take the test to protect yourselves and your loved ones.”

Recognizing the increased risk that inbound international travellers may pose, including the potential to spread the new UK COVID-19 variant, the government is fulfilling its commitment to quickly implement airport testing to help contain this deadly virus. Beginning today, the province, in partnership with the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, will offer free and voluntary COVID-19 testing for international travellers arriving and staying in the province for at least 14 days.

“We are working closely with our industry partners to proceed on our commitment to implement testing at Pearson airport to help keep people safe and stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” said Minister Elliott. “This airport testing pilot will test, trace and help isolate COVID-19 cases early and is a great step forward in protecting our borders.”

Eligible travellers will be able to pre-register for the program or proceed to get tested when they arrive at the airport. Those choosing to participate in the pilot will receive a free, self-collected lab-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test and be supervised by a health care provider either in-person or by video as the traveller self-administers the test. Switch Health, a health service provider, will provide the monitored self-swabbing tests in a convenient and dedicated space in the airport. Switch Health has been delivering testing services in the Windsor-Leamington area and Peel Region, and can support the needed volumes and timing requirements for the testing pilot.

“Today’s announcement is the culmination of months of perseverance among scientists, health professionals, the aviation industry and our partners in federal and provincial government to make a safe industry even safer. This pilot program is another protective layer in our industry-leading Healthy Airport commitment. We look forward to continued collaboration with the federal and provincial governments, as testing is an internationally accepted risk mitigation strategy.”

– Deborah Flint
President and CEO, Greater Toronto Airports Authority

Test results will be reported into Ontario’s Lab Information System within 48 hours and local public health units will follow up on all positive tests. All international travellers will continue to be required to follow the federal requirement for a mandatory 14-day quarantine after arriving or returning to Canada, regardless if they have a negative or positive test.

“This pilot program is another critical element in our government’s efforts to put in place the measures needed to keep Ontarians safe from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “Introducing testing at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport will help stop the transmission of the virus and support the development of a longer-term testing strategy needed for international travel. We remain steadfast in our commitment to doing what is needed to protect the health and safety of Ontarians.”

This program is in addition to the new Government of Canada pre-departure requirement for travellers bound to Canada to demonstrate proof of negative COVID-19 results from a test taken within three days prior to departure. The province continues to work with the federal government to explore the next stage of the pilot, including a proposed modified quarantine period for participants who test negative.

With the confirmation of cases of the COVID-19 UK Variant stemming from inbound international travel, the province continues to be in constant contact with the Public Health Agency of Canada and other jurisdictions to monitor the developing situation related to the COVID-19 UK Variant and ensure coordinated, effective and shared efforts to protect and safeguard the public.

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