Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott, centre, rides down an escalator after holding a media availability regarding the new COVID-19 testing stations located at the international arrivals area at Pearson International Airport in Toronto on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. (The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette)

Ontario launches new testing program at Toronto Pearson International Airport

The Province of Ontario launched a new COVID-19 testing program on Wednesday at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport for international travellers in order to quickly identify and stop the spread of the virus.

According to a press release from the Ontario government, the province partnered with the Greater Toronto Airports Authority to offer free and voluntary testing for international travellers arriving and staying in Ontario for at least 14 days. 

“We are working closely with our industry partners to proceed on our commitment to implement testing at Pearson airport to help keep people safe and stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” said Ontario Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott. “This airport testing pilot will test, trace and help isolate COVID-19 cases early and is a great step forward in protecting our borders.”

Travelers eligible for the free and voluntary testing program will be able to pre-register for the program and get tested when they arrive at the airport. Those who choose to take the test will be given a free, self collected lab-based polymerase chain reaction test and be supervised by a health care provider while the traveler self-administers the test. 

The Ontario government said that the test results will then be reported within 48 hours and that local public health units will follow up with positive tests. They also noted that all international travelers arriving or returning to Canada must still follow the mandatory 14-day quarantine requirement regardless of the test results.

“With over 60,000 international passengers coming into Pearson airport every week, we can’t take any unnecessary risks,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said. “That’s why we’re putting in place this new pilot program to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and respond to new threats like the recent strain of the virus we’re seeing in an alarming number of countries without the same travel restrictions as the U.K.”

The new testing program in Ontario comes in addition to the Canadian government’s requirement for travelers coming into the country to show proof of negative COVID-19 results from a test that was taken within three days prior to their departure. 

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