TORONTO -- The Canada-U.S. border has been closed since March and it won’t be reopening “anytime soon,” according to a health policy expert who says there may yet be other strategies to allow for safe travel and shorter quarantine periods during the pandemic.

Vivek Goel, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, is currently conducting a study involving international travellers arriving at Toronto Pearson International Airport. The participants take part in nasal and cheek swabs when they arrive, then seven days later, and again 14 days after their arrival.

The aim of Goel’s study is to determine how many arriving passengers have COVID-19 and to use that data to inform government policy on border controls and quarantine measures. He said they want to find out if a testing program could be used to replace or reduce the amount of time people spend in quarantine when they arrive in Canada.

“Perhaps a strategy of testing may actually turn out to be safer than a strategy of a strict 14-day quarantine, which in a democratic society, it’s very difficult to implement, unless we’re going to build quarantine hotels and facilities and try to keep everyone locked up,” he told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday.

While Goel is confident there will be a vaccine for COVID-19, he said it could take some time for everyone to get vaccinated, which is why he wanted to research potential ways for travel to be adapted during the pandemic.

One such way could be the use of location-based monitoring, according to Goel, which might require recent travellers to check in on their cellphones on a daily basis and confirm their location using GPS.

“We know there are concerns around privacy and civil liberties with things like that, but people that are choosing to travel may be prepared to give up some of those privacy rights in order to have the ability to travel,” he said.

Before the Canadian border can be fully reopened, however, Goel said the virus has to be brought under control at home and in the countries where travellers are originating from. He also said Canada has to be prepared for future spikes in coronavirus cases before lifting border control measures.

“We have to make sure we’re ready for future peaks and valleys or waves and make sure we have adequate testing and contact tracing capacity,” he said.

“Given where things are at right now, in Canada and the United States and the rest of the world, it's unlikely that we're going to see complete relaxation of the border restrictions anytime soon.”