Infectious disease and medical experts say federal government travel restrictions are ineffective in protecting Canadians from the spread of COVID-19

  • Extensive review by infectious disease and emergency physicians concludes that mandatory arrival and departure testing, quarantines, travel advisories and other border restrictions have not significantly reduced the spread of the variants of concern through Canada
  • The report concludes that there is no scientific basis for applying stricter health measures to travel and tourism than to other industries

OTTAWA (ON), September 23, 2022 /CNW/ – The Canadian Roundtable on Travel and Tourism (CTTR) today welcomed the release of Assessing Canada’s Pandemic Travel and Border Policies: Lessons Learned (the Report), written by four renowned Canadian physicians specializing in infectious diseases, emergency medicine and pandemic management who have assessed the impact and effectiveness of border measures and other travel restrictions introduced by the Canadian government to manage COVID -19.

Through a study of existing literature and best practices from other countries, the Report concludes that:

  • Border measures have been largely ineffective in stopping worrying variants to enter and spread through Canada and are unlikely to be effective in the future. At best, travel restrictions are estimated to delay the impact of a worrying variant by a few days
  • The there is no convincing evidence that pre-departure and arrival testing and surveillance had a significant impact on local transmission in Canadian communities
  • Travel-related tests are ineffective in identifying cases of COVID-19 and preventing the spread of the virus and should no longer be taxed. Other alternative measures, such as community wastewater testing, are more accessible monitoring mechanisms to identify variants without inconveniencing travelers and requiring significant government and industry resources.
  • Mandatory masking is inconsistent from a public policy perspective. Air travel is one of the safest modes of transportation in terms of transmission risk with high air exchange rates. As such, it raises the question of the benefit of mask mandates targeting the travel sector, especially when not enforced in society and by other countries.

Although there have been public signals that the federal government will lift some remaining COVID-19 health measures before the end of the month, the Report should be leveraged for future pandemic planning purposes, as science-based decision-making is paramount to the successful management of infectious diseases.

“We have learned a lot since March 2020. It is no longer scientifically necessary or appropriate to use travel-related pandemic management tools nearly three years after the onset of COVID-19. Enough time has passed for us to be able to scientifically assess whether the travel restrictions introduced by the federal government have been successful in containing the spread of the virus and its variants,” said Dr. Zain Chagla, infectious disease physician and associate professor at McMaster University. “By evaluating the literature and comparing from Canada response to best practices in other countries, we were able to conclude that the restrictions introduced during the Omicron wave were largely ineffective and should not be maintained or reintroduced.”

“The continued imposition of measures on travel to from Canada border is expensive, illogical and inconsistent at this point,” said Dr. Dominique MertzAssociate Professor, Division Director of Infectious Diseases at McMaster University. “While Canadians are free to attend concerts, sports games and many other daily activities, the travel industry continues to be singled out without any scientific basis. In retrospect, these measures could have been discontinued with similar policy changes in the community across Canada.”

“Pre-departure and on-arrival testing did not have the desired impact as they did not distinguish between an infectious traveler and a non-infectious traveler who might still test positive from a previous infection. “, said Dr. Karl WeissChief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Jewish General Hospital and Professor of Medicine at McGill university. “The federal government should not reintroduce past measures and should remove the remaining restrictions as they will have a very limited impact on Canadian society at this stage.”

“There is a clear gap in the measures that have been applied to international travel and tourism, in particular compared to the measures applied to other modes of transport, such as public transport, and to public health measures in the community in general,” said Dr. David CarrAssociate Professor, Division of Emergency Medicine at University of Toronto and emergency physician at the University Health Network. “Based on current data and evidence, it is time to completely overhaul the Canadian government’s approach to testing and monitoring air passengers. Canada must begin to align its policies with those of peer countries. »

“Last week, the World Health Organization announced that deaths from COVID-19 were at their lowest since March 2020. With this news, it is even clearer that what made sense at the start of the pandemic no longer makes sense today. from Canada travel rules have been out of step with the international community and have not had the desired impact when it comes to preventing the spread of worrying variants within our borders,” said Perrin BeattyPresident and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Co-Chair of the Report. “The report released today confirms that Canada must adapt its response to the changing pandemic landscape. We hope the federal government heeds the sound and urgent advice of these respected doctors that unscientific border measures are not the answer. »

“We are deeply grateful to the authors of this report for their exemplary work,” added Beth Potterthe other co-chair of the Report and President and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada. “Canada has long been recognized for its openness, and our response to the threat of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases must be rooted in this value. We hope the report will provide Canadians with solid scientific evidence of what we can learn from our collective management of this pandemic and inform policy decisions in the future. »

Click here to access the full report.

About the Canadian Tourism Roundtable

The Canadian Tourism Roundtable is a pan-Canadian coalition of tourism and travel industry leaders – including representatives from airports, airlines, hotels and chambers of commerce across the country – committed to working together to restart the sector smoothly and safely. Travel and tourism is a $105 billion industry, employing millions of Canadians and representing 2.1% of the country’s gross domestic product. The CTTR champions the safety and prosperity of the tourism and travel sector across Canada.

SOURCE Canadian Roundtable on Travel and Tourism

For further information: Connor Whitworth, [email protected]

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