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Random COVID-19 testing resumes at four major airports; tests to be done offsite

Actual tests will be completed through an in-person or virtual appointment outside the airport

Mandatory random COVID-19 testing resumed Tuesday for travellers coming into Canada through four major airports in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal.

But the actual tests will be completed outside the airports, either in an in-person appointment or via a virtual appointment for a swab test.

Ottawa paused the random testing of vaccinated travellers entering Canada by air last month as it worked to move the actual testing process to locations outside of airports.

At the time, the federal government faced mounting criticism from tourism and air travel industry groups that felt public health restrictions were to blame for the chaos at Canadian airports.

The situation at Canadian airports has remained chaotic at times since testing was put on hold.

At Toronto’s Pearson airport, some travellers said they had a smooth experience on arrival Tuesday morning, despite bracing for the worst.

Kerry Carstairs arrived on a flight from Newark, N.J., for a business trip and said she expected to be dogged by long lines and problems with documentation. Instead, she said, “it couldn’t have been easier.”

“I was impressed with the technology, so didn’t really have to talk to a soul … then, just went to the first customs official, they asked me a few questions, and I was off,” she said, adding she was not selected for a random test.

Bill Mcdonald said he’s familiar with the recent airport chaos, taking work trips to Toronto around once every two months.

But when he arrived from Minneapolis, Minn., on Tuesday, he was off the plane and through customs in a “matter of minutes” without having been selected for a random test, he said.

“It could’ve been time of day, not sure, but it was just perfect,” he added.

Deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo has previously said random mandatory testing is an important part of Canada’s strategy to detect new variants coming in to the country.

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