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Trudeau announces mandatory airline temperature checks

Friday, June 12, 2020 @ 3:21 PM | By Ian Burns

Canada is now mandating temperature screening for air passengers as it continues the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement at his daily press conference June 12. He said passengers who have fevers will not be able to board flights, and employees in secured areas at airports would also be required to have their temperature checked.

“Our government is mandating temperature screening for air passengers through a phased approach — first, for those travelling to Canada, then for those travelling from Canada, and finally for those travelling within Canada,” he said. “We talked about the idea of thermal screenings for travellers a number of months ago, but it was highlighted that it is not a way of detecting COVID-19 in travellers. But it is an additional measure that can highlight symptoms of COVID-19 and is an extra layer of safety to encourage people who might be sick to stay home.”

By June 30, all air operators will be required to conduct temperature screenings of all passengers travelling to Canada. By the end of July, temperature screening stations will be placed in the departure section at the four major international airports in Canada: Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. And by September, temperature screening stations will be in place in the departure sections of the nation’s next 11 busiest airports (St. John’s, Halifax, Quebec City, Ottawa, Toronto Billy Bishop, Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Kelowna and Victoria).

“If a person has an elevated temperature measurement and we would do two measurements just in case, and if the person still had an elevated temperature, we would require them not to rebook for 14 days,” Transport Minister Marc Garneau said at a later press conference. “That is an arbitrary but prudent amount of time and the intention and we are working on the airlines is that the rebooking would not be more expensive.”

For international flights to Canada, air operators must conduct temperature screenings at the point of departure, unless the local authority has an equivalent measure in place, in addition to the existing required health check questions for symptoms prior to boarding. Within Canada, Canadian Air Transport Security Authority screeners will conduct the temperature screening of passengers as part of departure screening procedures. This is in addition to the health screening questions and the wearing of face coverings that are already required for all passengers.

When asked about concerns Canada would be in breach of privacy laws if people are asked to have their temperature taken if it is not evidence-based, Garneau said the checks were a “very reasonable measure” based on expert advice to ensure Canadians are protected.

“We ourselves look at these matters before we make decisions, and in this particular case we are talking about a national safety measure to protect Canadians,” he said.

Trudeau also announced that the military deployments at long-term care facilities in Quebec and Ontario which have been hit hard by the pandemic will be extended to June 26.

“Our women and men in uniform are doing a remarkable job, their help is still needed, so we are making sure that our elders continue to have this vital support,” he said.

In response to a dash-cam video showing the violent arrest of an Alberta First Nations chief by the RCMP, Trudeau called the incident “shocking” and that he has serious questions about what happened.

“The independent investigation must be transparent and be carried out so that we get answers,” he said. “At the same time though, we know that this is not an isolated incident. Far too many black Canadians and Indigenous people do not feel safe around police — that is unacceptable, and as governments we have to change that.”

Trudeau also said he expected to announce the results of studies looking at changing the protocols on blood donation by gay men and other members of the LGBTQ community “very soon.”

“[This policy] has long been discriminatory but we know, and Canada has learned through unfortunate experience, that the safety of our blood supply is something that we have to anchor in science,” he said. “We have made significant steps forward and we will continue to anchor our decisions in science and the protection of Canadians, but as I said we will work to end this discrimination.”