Alberta to host rapid COVID-19 testing pilot of international travellers
CALGARY -- Calgary International Airport and the Coutts border crossing will be the first in Canada to replace mandatory 14-day quarantines for international travellers with rapid testing, the Alberta Government announced Thursday.
The pilot project will be conducted in partnership with the federal government and travel industry.
The program will start in early November at the Coutts border crossing and at the Calgary airport as a test run before being expanded across the country.
"This is an important step in Alberta’s Recovery Plan. This new pilot program will allow those who need to travel for work to have a safe path to a shorter quarantine period," said Premier Jason Kenney, who joined the announcement remotely because he is in self-isolation after being in close contact with Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard, who tested positive for COVID-19 Wednesday. Kenney tested negative for the virus Wednesday night, but will remain in isolation until Oct.29.
The rapid testing pilot project is voluntary and travellers can still choose to opt out of the program, but it will be mandatory for those people to quarantine for 14 days.
Kenney says international travellers will receive a COVID-19 test when entering Canada before entering into quarantine. When the test comes back negative, those travellers will be allowed to leave quarantine and will have to take another test six or seven days after their initial arrival.
Despite being allowed to leave quarantine after testing negative, travellers will still have to remain in Alberta for 14 days after arrival and must wear masks in public places and will be subject to daily symptom checks.
"We cannot turn our back to the travel industry or the tourism industry," said Kenney.
The premier says Alberta’s travel and tourism industry is expected to bring in just $3.5 billion dollars this year, down about 63 per cent from last year.
WestJet Airlines CEO Ed Sims welcomes the program.
"This is the first bit of good news we’ve received since February," said Sims. "WestJet has been advocating for a science-based rapid testing solution to help safely ease the quarantine requirements."
People eligible for the reduced quarantine time must be Canadian citizens, permanent residents or foreign nationals currently permitted entry into Canada and who have no symptoms.