Government to require temperature checks for travellers and employees at airports
Travellers who have a fever will be denied boarding and told to wait two weeks before the can fly again, according to government orders issued Friday.
“It is not a panacea, it is not 100%,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, announcing new rules requiring temperature checks for all travellers. “It’s an extra layer of safety to encourage people who might feel sick to stay home and not travel and put others at risk.”
The largest Canadian airlines – Air Canada and Westjet – have already implemented temperature checks for passengers before boarding. Friday’s announcement extends the practice to airline and airport employees accessing secure areas of airports.
Passengers will be given a temperature check at security screening points. If their temperature is high, they will be given a second check 10 minutes later. If both checks are high, passengers will be told to re-try again in two weeks.
“We don’t want them to enter the secure area and take the flight,” said Garneau. “They will be given the opportunity to rebook their flight 14 days later.
“That’s an arbitrary but prudent amount of time,” he said.
It was not immediately clear what would happen to employees caught in the same situation.
Garneau said the government is working with airlines to make sure passengers who must rebook are not charged extra fees to do it.
“With respect to taking temperatures I think Canadians and international travellers will welcome these,” said Garneau. “This government has an overriding priority to ensure the safety of Canadians and that passes through the measures that we have to put in place in the country to minimize the possibility of it spreading and that also includes air travel.”
The move shifts the cost of temperature checks from airlines onto taxpayers and the Canadian Air Transport Authority, the Crown agency responsible for security screening at Canadian airports. CATSA is funded by Parliament through fees charged to passengers.
“The costs are quite modest, but we don’t know them because CATSA will be responsible for the purchasing of equipment for this to be deployed in 15 airports,” said Garneau. “CATSA will be able to pay for these with its budget.”
The order takes effect in three stages:
- By the end of June for passengers flying to Canada
- By the end of July for domestic and international passengers at Canada’s four busiest airports – Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, and Calgary
- By the end of September for the next 11 busiest airports
Garneau said the temperature checks were part of a “layered approach” that includes requiring masks for passengers and health questionnaires. The first goal is to stop new infections from coming into the country from abroad; the second is to stop the spread within Canada.
Airports and airlines have also stepped up cleaning of passenger areas and encouraged physical distancing wherever possible.
Garneau said the new requirement puts Canada in line with the practice in other countries and recommendations by the International Air Transport Association and the International Civil Aviation Organization.
“These are world bodies that recommended this be done,” he said.
“If a person does have a fever and does have coronavirus there is a very high probability that we will detect that.”
Airlines are among more than 100 organizations calling on the government to loosen travel restrictions in a bid to restart the moribund tourism sector.
“We also need a more targeted approach to international travel,” they said in an open letter to the Prime Minister published Thursday. “The mandatory 14-day quarantine and complete closure of our country to all visitors from abroad is no longer necessary and is out of step with other countries across the globe.”