The volume and interdependence of world travel is widely regarded as one of the main factors behind the rapid spread of the virus worldwide. There are currently more than 7.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, in nearly 200 countries, according to a database maintained by Johns Hopkins University.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau said that all passengers on international flights to Canada will have their temperature checked at their departure airport at the end of the month.
Passenger screening on domestic flights and those traveling from Canada to other countries will be in place at the country’s four largest airports by the end of July, followed by the 11 largest airports by the end September, said the minister.
Officials will take passenger temperatures twice, 10 minutes apart, to avoid false positives. Passengers prevented from boarding will be able to book their flights at no additional cost – as long as the re-booked flight leaves at least 14 days later.
“Foreign airlines will take temperature measurements … to ensure that we minimize the possibility of reducing the virus in the country,” said Garneau. “It will take us longer to buy the equipment and put in place the screening procedures for people on domestic flights. ”
Temperature controls will complement a number of measures already in place at airports – including mandatory wearing of a mask for all passengers and staff, health checks, improved cleaning protocols and physical distance from airports .
WATCH: Trudeau says airport temperature controls are an “extra layer of protection”
Government previously resisted temperature controls
The introduction of temperature controls marks a reversal for the Liberal government, which had resisted their introduction. Trudeau and chief public health officer Theresa Tam said there was not enough scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of temperature controls.
A 2005 report, co-authored by Tam, which reviewed border screening measures during the SARS epidemic, found that no cases of SARS were detected at airports despite intensive efforts to screen passengers planes at certain airports to detect symptoms and signs of the virus.
Garneau said today that comparisons with SARS are limited by the fact that it has infected a relatively small number of people compared to the new coronavirus. Just over 8,000 people were infected with SARS between November 2002 and July 2003, according to the World Health Organization.
“This is part of a layered approach and if a person has a fever and has … the coronavirus, there is a very high probability that we will detect it and that way we can protect Canadians from the spread of this virus Said Garneau. .
Garneau also noted that two international aviation organizations – the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) – recommend that travelers undergo temperature control at airports in separate guidelines published in early June.
Trudeau acknowledged that temperature controls only detect one of the symptoms of COVID-19 – fever – and not the disease itself.
“It’s not a panacea,” said Trudeau. “It’s an extra layer of security. ”
Some Canadian airlines have already implemented temperature controls on their own. Air Canada became the first North American airline to do so in May. WestJet also conducted temperature tests, according to the airline’s website.
Air Transat is warning its customers that they can have their temperature checked at certain airports.
Privacy experts have warned that mandatory temperature testing can violate privacy laws by requesting sensitive personal information when it is not needed.
A spokesperson for the Privacy Commissioner of Canada said last week that while the office had received no complaints about airline temperature checks, it had received a store complaint Retail. The spokesman said an investigation was underway but did not provide further details.