The federal government has announced plans to check fevers at 15 Canadian airports in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Starting on June 30, all air operators must conduct temperature screenings for passengers travelling to Canada prior to departure. Temperature screening stations will start at international airports in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver by the end of July. Additional screening stations will be in place at another 11 Canadian airports, including John G. Diefenbaker International Airport in Saskatoon, by September.
Any passenger with an elevated temperature will not be allowed to board unless they have a medical certificate to explain their condition.
“There are strong measures already in place to keep people safe, and this screening will add yet another of protection,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday.
Within Canada, screeners from the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority will perform the checks. Passengers will be checked twice, 10 minutes apart, before being allowed to board their flights. Anyone who does not pass the temperature check will have to rebook two weeks later.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau said other countries were already introducing the measures, and argued that West Jet and Air Canada already have similar policies. Airlines and passengers have been hit hard by COVID-19, and Garneau said he expected full support from them.
“Is it perfect? No, but it is part of a layered approach that we are taking,” he explained.
“I think Canadians and international passengers will welcome these (measures) and realize that they are an additional layer of safety for Canadians.”
“It’s just an additional measure that will protect people,” Trudeau added. “I think Canadians expect us to do whatever we can to keep them safe, and that’s what we’re doing.”
The move marks a change in direction for the federal government, which previously said temperature checks at airports were not effective.
Garneau said they were acting on old information based on the SARS epidemic in 2003, and changed their minds after reviewing new data.
“I’m an engineer, so I do believe in science, and I can tell you that if somebody has COVID-19 and has a temperature and wants to take a flight, the chances with temperatures measurements are very high that we will detect that person,” he said.
Global air travel organizations like the International Air Transport Association (IATA) began calling for temperature checks in airports almost a month ago.
On May 19, the IATA released details about temporary security measures that could help restart air travel amid the COVID-19 crisis. Those measures included checking temperatures for everyone who entered an airport.
Garneau said they don’t know what the cost of implementing temperatures checks would be, but he expects it will be minimal.