All incoming travellers must be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival at Toronto’s Pearson Airport starting Feb. 1 at 12:01 p.m., Premier Doug Ford said on Jan. 29.
Ford also said that the province will be exploring additional testing measures at the airport and land border crossings in the coming weeks.
“We welcome the new measures announced by the federal government today, but we need a stopgap to prevent new cases, including variant cases, from arriving in Ontario until those measures are fully in place,” he said.
“That’s why our government is taking immediate and decisive action, which includes mandatory testing of incoming international travellers and providing additional layers of protection for the people of Ontario, especially our seniors.”
Ontario’s first COVID-19 UK variant case was confirmed last month and was due to international travel. As of Thursday, the province had reported 51 cases of the variant, with more testing underway to determine if further spread has taken place.
Besides the mandatory testing at Pearson, Ford announced a six-point plan which he said will help “stop this virus in its tracks”:
- Enhanced screening and sequencing to take effect on Feb. 3. This new measure will be led by Public Health Ontario (PHO), the provincial diagnostic lab network to ramp up capacity to screen all positive COVID-19 tests in Ontario for known variants within two to three days of initial processing. PHO will also undertake and coordinate genomic sequencing efforts to identify new and emerging variants by sequencing up to 10 percent of all positive tests by Feb. 17.
- Maintain public health measures – lifting of these measures will not be considered at this time until more information on variant spread is known and overall trends in public health indicators improve.
- Strengthen case and contact management – continue supporting public health units to ensure cases and contacts are reached as soon as possible and monitored through their quarantine period.
- Enhancing protections for vulnerable populations – province will continue with the accelerated vaccination of residents in long-term care, high-risk retirement and First Nations eldercare homes
- Leveraging data – the province will work with a made-in-Ontario technology company DNAstack to immediately establish a genomics databank and real-time analytics dashboard to identify known and emerging variants of COVID-19.