The Ontario government has launched a voluntary and free COVID-19 testing program for international travellers arriving at Toronto Pearson International Airport.
Premier Doug Ford announced the new testing program on Wednesday, which he calls as a “game changer” in regards to the early detection of COVID-19 in people arriving into the province from overseas.
“This is a critical step,” Ford said at the airport on Wednesday. “Travellers coming into Pearson will be able to take a free and voluntary test.”
Travellers who receive a negative COVID-19 test will still be required to self-isolate for 14 days, but Ford said he is “actively working to further enhance the program.”
Ontario’s Minister of Health Christine Elliott said the next stage of the program would be modifying the 14-day quarantine period for people who test negative.
According to the government, eligible travellers will be able to pre-register for the program or proceed to get tested when they arrive at the airport. Those who chose to participate in the program will be given a test that will be self-administered with the guidance of a health-care provider.
The test results will be reported within 48 hours and local public health units will follow up on all positive tests.
“This pilot program is in addition to the new Government of Canada requirements for travellers coming to Canada to have a negative COVID-19 test that will act as another layer of protection for our community,” Elliott said.
According to the provincial government, more than 60,000 international travellers are arriving at Toronto Pearson International Airport each week despite the ongoing pandemic.
Ford has previously slammed the federal government for not testing international travellers when they arrive back in Canada.
In late December, he vowed to begin testing people at Toronto Pearson International Airport with or without the federal government’s support.
The premier said at the time that more than 64,000 people are going “basically unchecked” through the airport every week. He claimed that almost no travellers coming into the country are following the 14-day quarantine rules.
“These folks are roaming the streets and we’re letting it happen,” Ford said.
The Canadian government has strongly discouraged international travel since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to do so.
Former Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips resigned from his key role in cabinet last week after it was revealed he took a secret vacation to a luxurious Caribbean island.