Ontario closer to requiring all arriving international travellers at Pearson airport to get coronavirus tests

The Ontario government is closer to requiring all international travellers arriving at Toronto Pearson International Airport to be tested for coronavirus if the federal government fails to take “action,” a senior provincial government source tells Global News.

The source, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly, said Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, is “strongly considering” issuing a Section 22 order under the province’s Health Protection and Promotion Act.

As of Wednesday evening, it wasn’t clear when that order might be issued.

The development comes just a day after Premier Doug Ford touted a pilot program that saw more than 6,800 international passengers be tested on a voluntary basis. He called for additional border protections related to COVID-19.

Read more: Ontario premier demands increased coronavirus testing at airports as new variant emerges

“While we’ve made steady progress through this pilot program, thousands of people continue to pass through Pearson every week without being tested, creating a real risk to all Ontarians,” Ford said in a statement on Monday.

However, as of Jan. 7, the federal government instituted a requirement for all returning travellers arriving on international flights to have a negative molecular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival.

Global News contacted the offices of the federal ministers of transport and health Wednesday evening, but representatives weren’t immediately available for comment.

Although the daily number of new cases has been slowly declining in recent days after the Ontario government enacted a stay-at-home order and introduced shutdown measures weeks ago, the province has been struggling to vaccinate residents to help protect against the virus.

Read more: New coronavirus testing rules for travellers landing in Canada to start Jan. 7

Williams issued new guidance to all of the province’s hospital CEOs and public health units on the timeline to provide health-care workers with their second dose.

He said because of shipping delays with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the province will need to extend the time between doses for the workers to between 35 days and 42 days after their first shot.

Earlier this week, the province said it was extending the time between doses for workers but did not provide a detailed window, other than to say the second dose must be administered before 42 days.

The news comes as the province shifts its vaccine allocations in a bid to immunize all long-term care, high-risk retirement, and First Nations elder care residents by Feb. 5.

Read more: Free COVID-19 testing program launches at Toronto Pearson Airport for international travellers

The government had initially promised to complete the vaccination of all long-term care home residents, staff and caregivers by Feb. 15.

“The extended dosage interval is a direct response to the temporarily reduced vaccine availability from the federal government and uncertainty regarding the stability of supply in the near-term, as well as the current provincial epidemiology of the pandemic,” Williams said in the letter Wednesday.

According to COVID-19 data released by the Ontario government on Wednesday, there were 1,670 new cases of COVID-19 reported on Wednesday and 49 more deaths linked to the virus.

Read more: Provinces urge feds to ramp up rapid testing at airports amid new COVID-19 variant

Currently, there are currently 1,382 people hospitalized due to coronavirus — a decrease of 84 patients from the day before.

Of those patients, 377 people are in intensive care units (a day-over-day decrease of six patients) and 291 are on ventilators (a day-over-day decrease of seven patients).

To date, 260,370 people have tested positive for coronavirus, 5,958 have died due to COVID-19 and 232,480 people were reported to have recovered from the virus.

— With files from The Canadian Press and Alanna Rizza

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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