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'Mass confusion' hits Calgary airport as new travel rules take hold


It is a busy weekend at the Calgary International Airport as thousands of travellers heading into the city were greeted by long lines and testing confusion.

Canada announced this week it will now require people arriving internationally by plane – except those from the United States – to take a COVID-19 test once they land.

And starting Monday, Canadians and all other foreign visitors who travel to the U.S. by air will need to get a COVID-19 test no later than one day before their departure.

That replaces a previous three-day testing window.

It's all part of a strategy aiming to halt the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

The newest set of rules on the country's ever-changing slate meant those coming in to YYC on Saturday night had to be a little extra patient.

"(The line had) 100 people on one side and 100 on the other," DJ McNeill told CTV News. "There was mass confusion as people were leaving and coming back into line and wondering if they were going to the front of the line or supposed to go to the end of the line because they left this other line that they were standing in.

"We couldn't believe it."

A silver lining, according to McNeill, was the helpful hand of airport staff who had what he referred to as "an impossible job."

YYC's communications team says all travellers should expect delays, but it's not just in Calgary.

Across the country, those landing home after a trip abroad are being told to exercise both patience and caution.

"(The federal rules) have changed the way my travellers are looking to travel and it adds an extra step of ambiguity," Vision Travel advisor Katie Kewley said. "It's too much. They've already done a PCR test (before taking off) and they have a negative, why test again?"

For travel agents, it's all an extra tough pill to swallow just as it seemed business was finally picking up again.

"It's kind of like a rollercoaster ride for the Canadian public who are looking to book to go on vacations," Jason Webb with Downunder Travel said. "And it's not just the Canadian government we have to try to keep up with, but it's governments in every jurisdiction that we send people to."

The U.S. Embassy says land border restrictions for travel to the United States remain in effect through January 21, 2022 and may be extended.

"Fully vaccinated foreign travelers are able to travel to the United States across the northern and southwest borders with Canada and Mexico," the website states.

"Travelers who enter the United States at land (ports of entry) and ferry terminals do not require proof of a negative test; in addition, U.S. citizens and (Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status) do not need to provide proof of vaccination status at land (ports of entry) and ferry terminals."

- With files from Reuters Top Stories

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