“What would that tell you about what the individual had done while they were away and whether or not they posed a threat?” pondered Perrin Beatty, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, who spoke on behalf of the roundtable Thursday.
“It would simply drive up costs for people travelling without providing any added security at all for Canadians.”
Some public health experts have defended the policy, though they acknowledge a test done in Canada won’t tell border officials anything about what they were exposed to a day or two later.
“You do not want them to come to a Canadian border and potentially expose important front-line staff,” said Susan Bondy, associate professor with the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.
The test also makes for better consistency at the border without forcing Canadians to get tested in the United States during their short visit, said Dr. Kwame McKenzie, CEO of the Wellesley Institute, who also served on the federal government’s testing advisory panel.
“It seems crazy,” he acknowledged, “but they’re trying to line up the fact that you need to test to get into Canada … It’s not as crazy as it seems.”
As for the test requirements for vaccinated travellers in general, McKenzie said Canada’s safety standards for travellers are higher than some other countries.
“That is a reason why Canada has one of the lower infection rates and death rates per million population,” he said.
There is no doubt that the tests do prevent some COVID-19-positive people from crossing the border, but the question is how many.
Deputy public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo said even some of those who have entered Canada under the current rules have tested positive after crossing into the country. The latest figures from public health show that applies to about 0.18 per cent of vaccinated travellers.
“It may seem like a very low percentage, but if the number of travellers coming back into Canada increases, the absolute number of travellers who are coming in and who are infected with COVID-19 could end up being a significant number,” he said.
It’s difficult to know how many people have had to cancel their plans because they’ve tested positive because there is no way to track them.
Tam warned that though the fourth wave is bending in the right direction, Canada is still vulnerable to another surge.
At the end of the day, it comes down to risk tolerance, said Bondy, and how much risk reduction Canadians feel is necessary.
“That’s the nature of public health, is to wrestle with those thorny issues,” she said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 5, 2021.
This content was originally published here.