Canadian doctors calling to scrap "obsolete" PCR tests for travel

Feb 11 2022, 9:55 pm

PCR tests are part of the new normal for anyone travelling in and out of Canada, and some Canadian doctors are saying it’s time to end them.

According to a release from the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable, they and a group of doctors feel that it’s time for the federal government to “remove unnecessary and non-science-based obstacles to international travel, such as the pre-departure and on-arrival PCR tests for fully vaccinated travellers.”

In the release, Dr. Zain Chagla, Infectious Diseases Physician and Associate Professor at McMaster University, said that “COVID-19 testing at the border does not make any sense.”

“Travel is no more risky than other activities, and there is no scientific reason to single it out,” they said.

“When first put in place, Canada’s travel rules were designed to keep COVID-19 out of the country. Now that the virus is here and community spread is responsible for approximately 99 per cent of all infections, the rules governing travel are obsolete,” said Dr. Chagla.

The Roundtable – which includes travel and tourism representatives from airports, airlines, hotels, and more across Canada – also points out that other countries like the UK, Switzerland, and Denmark have already scrapped border testing for fully vaccinated travellers.

Dr. Dominik Mertz, Division Director of Infectious Diseases at McMaster University, agrees that as the pandemic has changed, the travel requirements should have changed, too.

“There are higher risk, domestic settings that vaccinated people can access without testing than travelling internationally,” Dr. Mertz said.

“The travel barriers the federal government has put in place to slow the arrival of COVID-19 no longer make sense and should be eliminated,” they said.

“PCR tests often deliver positive results for weeks to a couple of months after a COVID-19 diagnosis.”

“This reality presents a challenge for those infected during the Omicron wave while no longer having access to PCR testing in Canada. These Canadians may be facing a first positive test in the pre-departure testing abroad and as such may be unable to return – while no longer infectious and in fact, being the best protected travellers.”

“This policy is unnecessarily stranding Canadian’s abroad, leading to travel delays, financial penalties and potentially hazardous quarantine locations,” said Dr. Mertz.

As part of its guidance on COVID-19 testing for travellers, Canada currently advises that you avoid non-essential travel outside Canada.

The pre-entry test, with proof of a negative result within 72 hours of land entry or scheduled flight, is still required for most travellers.

Sarah AndersonSarah Anderson

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