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Beginning on Monday at noon, Feb. 1, Ontario will require mandatory PCR COVID-19 testing for all incoming international air travellers.
This additional measures are coming into place after the province confirmed five cases of B117 COVID-19 variant, first detected in the U.K., in the Ontario voluntary testing program at Toronto Pearson International Airport.
“We welcome the new measures announced by the federal government today, but we need a stop gap to prevent new cases, including variant cases, from arriving in Ontario until those measures are fully in place,” a statement from Ontario Premier Doug Ford reads.
If anyone refuses to get a test at the Toronto airport, they will be subject to a $750 fine. Ford said the province plans to implement testing protocols at land border crossings “as soon as possible.”
While the federal government announced mandatory arrival testing of international travellers will be put into place “in the coming weeks,” in addition to a required three-day hotel stay as travellers wait for their test result, Ford said the time frame is “a few weeks too long.”
Ontario’s new travel stipulations
This is part of a six-point variant action plan Ontario is implementing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including the introduction of COVID-19 variant cases.
In addition to the mandatory testing of international travellers, the other five points in the plan includes:
Effective Feb. 3, the province’s diagnostic lab network will increase capacity to screen COVID-19 positive tests to identify known variants. Public Health Ontario will undertake genomic sequencing for up to 10 per cent of all positive tests by Feb. 17.
All asymptomatic contacts of a case will be asked to take a repeat COVID-19 test on or after day 10 of their quarantine. The household of contacts and symptomatic individuals will be required to stay home until they have a negative test.
The province will introduce an antigen screening program to expand rapid testing in high-risk settings including long-term care homes, retirement homes, essential workplaces and congregate living setting.
The Ontario government will work with DNAstack to establish a “genomics databank” and dashboard to allow public health officials to “improve the government's planning related to pandemic response.”
The lifting of public health and workplace safety measures will not be considered at this time, “until more information on variant spread is known and overall trends in public health indicators improve.”
Since the first case of the B117 variant was detected on Boxing Day last year, 51 cases of that variant have been confirmed in Ontario.
Ford went on to say that Ontarians should not be leaving the province and individuals from other regions of Canada, including Manitoba and Quebec, shouldn’t be coming to Ontario for non-essential reasons.
“Let’s all stay at home, stay in your locations, and then we can all have party, party, party, and have Manitoba and Quebec, and have a real shindig after this is over and we get through this,” the premier said.