Transport Canada is offering more details this week on where travelers can take a COVID-19 test overseas – and what happens if they are caught using a fake – after a new rule test for passengers traveling to Canada caused widespread confusion and anxiety.
The new government policy, which took effect Jan. 7, requires all airline passengers five years of age and older to provide documentation of a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or isothermal amplification mediated test. loop (LAMP) within three days of flight to Canada.
Some travelers have struggled to find legitimate lab tests because the government did not initially offer a list of places where the tests could be obtained.
“There was a lot of confusion among the passengers as to their obligations. People showed up … not knowing they needed to take the test, or were unable to take a test, or perhaps did. passed a test, but it was not the right test, ”said Mike McNaney, President and CEO of the National Airlines Council of Canada.
Five days after the new rule was implemented, the federal government launched a website for passengers traveling to Canada that lists accredited test sites in certain countries.
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It happened too late to help Todd Warren, who was in the Dominican Republic with his three teenagers when the testing rule was introduced. Without any direction from the government, he said, he had to scramble to find a legitimate testing service.
False tests, high prices
“It was a little stressful when we were there,” Warren told TBEN News via Facetime from his home outside of Ottawa, where he is awaiting his 14-day quarantine.
Warren said that when news of the new COVID-19 testing rule emerged, he began to see local people taking advantage of the situation by selling fake tests on the beach for around US $ 3 to US $ 5.
“I guess the word on the street was that it was very profitable,” he said. “So they were talking to their friends about it and you saw people all over the beach with… laptops.
“No testing was done. So basically it was a template, a PDF file where you just gave them your name and that’s it. They emailed it to you.”
He said he finally found legitimate tests at a clinic – but prices have fluctuated.
“So they started, I don’t know the exact number, but it was around $ 1,000 and we brought it down to $ 79. And he said he was giving us a deal because there were four of us, ”Warren said.
“We were lucky there. The people before us ended up spending $ 1,500 and they didn’t know they were able to negotiate the price.”
Warren and her children received their negative test results just hours before their return flight departed. Others weren’t so lucky.
Hundreds of abandoned passengers
WestJet reports that in the first four days after the federal government announced the new testing rule, it refused to board 363 travelers because some paid for illegitimate testing, some did not get passenger tests. everything and some had failed to do their tests. within the required three-day window.
Air Transat said it refused to board 148 passengers in those four days due to testing issues, while another 300 people simply did not check in for their flights.
TBEN News has asked Air Canada and Sunwing to report the number of passengers they refused to board due to testing issues. Air Canada said it does not know the number and Sunwing has yet to respond.
McNaney said that by hastily introducing the new rule, the government let airlines hold the bag.
“So the carriers have been working very hard to try to re-adapt the passengers in order to change their routes, to change the flight schedules so that they can get a test completed within the necessary timeframe,” he said. “And what we have also done is provide passengers with as much information as possible about the test locations.”
Transport Canada has also issued a warning to travelers who use false tests and to airlines who consciously accept those results.
“If an air carrier suspects that a traveler has provided false or misleading information regarding their test results, they should notify Transport Canada,” a ministry spokesperson said.
“Air carriers that fail to comply with the requirements of Transport Canada’s Interim Order or other regulatory requirements under the Aeronautics Act could be subject to a fine of up to $ 5,000.
The testing requirement is in addition to the current mandatory quarantine period of 14 days for returning travelers. Travel restrictions imposed on most foreign nationals also remain in effect.