covid assessment

Travellers flying internationally to Canada are still not being given a basic health assessment

Almost one week ago today Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada was finally upgrading its screening efforts for travellers entering the country, including Canadians returning home after March Break. 

Among the measures adopted was for airlines to prevent those with symptoms of COVID-19 from boarding a plane by asking passengers to complete a basic health assessment.

Based on my experience travelling on Saturday, March 21 this is not being done.

I took an Air Canada flight from Mexico City to Toronto that day. I was expected to be screened at some point before boarding but I wasn't.

When I first checked into the Air Canada desk to get my boarding pass I was not asked a single question about my health. Nobody at the desk even mentioned anything about COVID-19 and no documentation was provided. It's as if we weren't even in a pandemic.

Maybe that's ok, I thought. Perhaps they will be doing some sort of health assessment at the gate when boarding?

That proved not to be the case either. While some travellers wore gloves and masks, none of the Air Canada staff checking our boarding passes at the gate did the same and, once again, there were no questions asked.

To be clear - nobody said or asked us anything about COVID-19, nobody gave us any documentation about COVID-19 and nobody gave us any health assessment, basic or otherwise.

All during the flight and when we landed at Pearson Airport in Toronto it was basically business as usual.

Staff were handing out documentation about COVID-19 at the airport but it was optional to take it. 

There were also no apparent efforts to enforce social distancing.

When we approached the immigration officer with our passports, we were only asked very casually "you know about the 14 day self-isolation, right?" and then asked if we recently had a fever, cough or difficulty breathing.

It was the same as what was just asked of us electronically just moments before.

At the airport in Singapore, they take the idea of screening for COVID-19 much more seriously. All arriving passengers are subject to temperature screenings and healthcare teams are stationed at the airport to identify passengers who look unwell, even if they don't currently have a fever.

It's unfortunate that airlines and airports in Canada have not been taking COVID-19 screening measures more seriously. 

Whenever airports are pressed on this issue, they simply deflect the criticism and say they take direction from the Canada Border Services Agency and Health Canada.

The writer of this article spent a week in Mexico with his family before returning to Canada on March 21. Jerome Healey is a pseudonym.

Lead photo by

Jerome Healey

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