(Toronto-com) – Mandatory COVID-19 tests at Pearson airport have found at least 32 cases of the virus, and Peel police have handed out $750 tickets to three international travellers who refused them as the federal government works to get quarantine hotels up and running.
The tests have been required of all arriving passengers from other countries since Monday noon under an Ontario government order aimed at detecting more contagious variants of the virus that could seed a third and more devastating wave of the pandemic with vaccines in short supply.
“Our government’s mandatory testing program will serve as a stopgap until the federal measures are in place,” Alexandra Hilkene, a spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott, said Friday.
“While we are glad to see the federal government taking action, we need these measures sooner rather than later to prevent new cases, including variant cases, arriving in Ontario.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who announced the mandatory hotel quarantines a week ago, told reporters Friday they will be in place “as soon as possible” in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal.
Incoming international travellers — who are already required to produce proof of a negative COVID test performed within 72 hours of boarding their flights — will have to stay at their own expense while awaiting test results instead of going straight home to isolate for 14 days as they do now.
Cases in Ontario, and in the hotbeds of Toronto and Peel, are now roughly the same as when the two municipalities were moved into lockdown restrictions Nov. 23.
Opening too much, too soon without widespread surveillance testing at schools and workplaces risks fuelling the spread of variants that can spread from person-to-person in one-third the time of original COVID strains and could result in daily cases doubling every five to 10 days, experts say.