Feds mandating temperature checks at airports, extending military deployments
OTTAWA -- The federal government is mandating temperature checks for air passengers, the latest health screening procedure to be added for Canadians looking to travel. The new policy was unveiled by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday, in addition to announcing that the military deployments to long-term care homes in Ontario and Quebec have also been extended until June 26.
As more restrictions are being loosened in provinces across Canada, the prime minister cautioned that as evidenced in other countries when economic restarts begin, cases begin to rise again. And so to avoid a second spike, there are still key precautions and even enhanced public health measures that need to be taken.
“After months of hard work, people are finding themselves right back where they started. Canada must learn from these lessons. It’s clear that we have to make safety and control of this virus a top priority in this restart,” Trudeau said during his Rideau Cottage address.
Citing the need to get the supplies required, Transport Minister Marc Garneau told reporters that the international fever checks will begin at the end of June, then by the end of July Canada’s four largest airports—Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver—will be screening domestic passengers as well. The remaining major airports will impose temperature screens by the end of September.
The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority will be conducting these screens in the departure section. Garneau said the cost should be modest to enact this new policy, which he said is focused on limiting the further spread of COVID-19 as more people become able to travel.
If a first temperature check indicates a passenger has a fever, their temperature will be taken a second time.
“A passenger who has a fever will not be permitted to board their flight. Employees in the secured areas of airports will also be required to have their temperature checked,” Trudeau said.
The cost of rebooking travel after 14 days and any related travel booking cancellations would fall to the passenger.
“We will work with the airlines as this program is deployed to see if we can do the maximum possible in the interest of the passengers, realizing that it's in our interest as well as the airline's interest not to allow somebody to take a flight it they have the temperature,” Garneau said.
In mid-April, the government decided to require all air passengers to wear non-medical masks or a face covering that goes over their mouth and nose, or risk being denied boarding. People who are symptomatic are not allowed to board.
Airlines have also already implemented additional cleaning and physical distancing measures, although maintaining the recommended space between people is not always possible aboard an aircraft.
Facing questions about why this new measure is coming down now, given that his government has said in the past temperature screenings are not an effective tool to detect COVID-19, Trudeau said this is “an extra layer of protection.” Though, not all people who contract COVID-19 experience fevers.
“It's an extra layer of protection for people coming into Canada, but it is not the one surefire way of keeping Canadians safe,” Trudeau said. “It is a measure that we can move forward with that in addition to other measures, can be effective at making sure that Canadians are kept safe.”
MILITARY DEPLOYMENT EXTENDED
On another note, the government has extended the deployment of military personnel inside seniors’ homes as a further push to keep up COVID-19 containment efforts.
As of mid-April, trained teams of Canadian Armed Forces personnel have been deployed to some hard-hit long-term care homes in Quebec and Ontario, where major outbreaks of COVID-19 have occurred.
There are currently more than 1,000 members deployed, and discussions have been ongoing as to how long their mission will continue, or evolve.
“Our women and men in uniform are doing a remarkable job. Their help is still needed, so we’re making sure that our elders continue to have this vital support,” Trudeau said on Friday.
The deployment into these homes sparked two damning reports into the conditions inside some of these facilities, prompting outrage and disgust from political leaders and the families who have loved ones living in these care homes.
In Canada, 82 per cent of all COVID-19 deaths are linked to outbreaks in seniors’ homes. More than two dozen military members tested positive after spending time inside one of these facilities.
Trudeau said that the military’s presence has led to improvements, but continues to note that it is not a long-term solution, and the government is looking to gradually replace military members with trained Red Cross workers over the summer.
“From the beginning they were there to stabilize the situation, to set in place protocols and measures that were necessary, while the situation was out of control. But over the past couple of months the extraordinary work done by the members of the Canadian Armed Forces has made a huge difference,” Trudeau said.
The extra help inside long-term care homes is just one aspect of what the military is calling “Operation LASER.” Canadian Rangers have also been deployed to communities across Canada to help with on-the-ground COVID-19 efforts.