Air Canada urges Ottawa to adopt 'science-based approach' to reopen travel

MONTREAL — Air Canada is again urging the government to ease COVID-19 travel restrictions, this time by adopting a "science-based approach" that would open travel to countries with low risks of infection.

In a letter sent Wednesday to various ministers, the country's largest airline says the situation is becoming "increasingly urgent" as Canada has made virtually no change to its quarantine restrictions since mid-March despite improvements in containing the spread of the virus.

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Air Canada's chief medical officer, Dr. Jim Chung, wrote that the restrictions are severely impacting the airline, its customers and employees, as well as an overall recovery.

He says the proposed measures mirror those adopted by the European Union, Britain and other jurisdictions.

The Montreal-based airline says it is not proposing relaxing U.S. border restrictions that are expected to be extended until at least late August.

It notes that requirements in place to travel to various countries include pre-departure medically certified negative COVID-19 tests to enter the Caribbean; a waiver of quarantine requirements after a negative test on arrival to Iceland, Austria and Luxembourg; and mandatory testing on arrival to South Korea, Hong Kong, Macau and the United Arab Emirates.

"There are many other interests affected by the quarantine restrictions — not only jobs and pensions, but also the social and economic well-being of individuals and communities that rely on air travel, as well as basic freedoms of mobility," says Chung.

"Business and labour leaders alike have implored the government to act on easing these restrictions in order to strike a better balance, without adversely impacting public health."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 15, 2020.

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