Science-Based Alternative to Ease Quarantine Act Restrictions

Expert Opinion: Science-Based Alternative to Ease Quarantine Act Restrictions (Open Letter by Dr. Jim Chung)



The Honourable Marc Garneau, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Transport
Transport Canada
330 Sparks Street
Ottawa Ontario K1A 0N5

The Honourable Patty Hajdu, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Health
70 Colombine Driveway
Ottawa, ON K1A 0K9

Science-Based Alternative to Ease Quarantine Act Restrictions

Dear Ministers:

I refer to our prior communications with the Government of Canada regarding the easing of the blanket travel restrictions and quarantines with a view to replacing them with more proportionate, evidence-based measures that can achieve public health objectives, while causing less detriment to other public interests and allowing for a measured restart of aviation, similar to what is occurring in other countries.

Without repeating everything stated previously, suffice it to say that the situation is becoming increasingly urgent. Canada has made virtually no change to its quarantine restrictions since mid-March, despite continuing improvements containing the spread of the virus both in our country and in many others. This is severely impacting Air Canada, our customers and employees as well as an overall recovery. Moreover, there are many other interests affected by the quarantine restrictions - not only jobs and pensions, but also the social and economic wellbeing of individuals and communities that rely on air travel, as well as basic freedoms of mobility. 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.

The Government of Canada is relying on the Quarantine Act to exercise its extraordinary power to prohibit or restrict movement within Canada. In doing so, under the Quarantine Act, the Government must act reasonably and determine that “no reasonable alternatives to prevent the introduction or spread of the disease are available.”

Other G20 countries (such as Germany, France, Italy, UK, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, amongst others) have shown that evidence-based, reasonable alternatives do in fact exist. Therefore, we are hereby proposing, for your consideration, that the blanket 14-day quarantine be replaced as soon as feasible with the science-based alternative set out in Appendix A, which has been guided by IATA with the assistance of medical professionals worldwide. See, for example:

https://www.iata.org/contentassets/f1163430bba94512a583eb6d6b24aa56/covid-medical-evidence-for-strategies-200609.pdf; https://www.iata.org/contentassets/5c8786230ff34e2da406c72a52030e95/iata-position-covid19-testing.pdf.

The proposed alternative is largely derived from the model adopted in the European Union and United Kingdom (https://ec.europa.eu/info/live-work-travel-eu/health/coronavirus-response/travel-and-transportation-during-coronavirus-pandemic_en). To be clear, given the current challenges in the United States in controlling the virus, we are not proposing relaxing the U.S. border restrictions at this time. Given the importance of this matter, we urgently require a response.

Sincerely,

Dr. Jim Chung
Chief Medical Officer

CC:

Hon. Chrystia Freeland - Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs
Hon. Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance
Paul Rochon, Deputy Minister of Finance
Hon. David Lametti, Minister of Justice
Me Nathalie G. Drouin Ad. E., Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General of Canada,
Hon. François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Marta Morgan, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs
Hon. Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Rob Stewart, Deputy Minister of Public Safety
Hon. Navdeep Bains, Minister of Science, Innovation and Industry
Simon Kennedy, Deputy Minister ISED
Michael Keenan, Deputy Minister Transport
Dr. Stephen Lucas, Deputy Minister Health
Ian Shugart, Clerk of the Privy Council
Dr. Mona Nemer, Chief Science Advisor,
Todd Doherty, Conservative Party Transport Critic
Pierre Poilievre, Conservative Party Finance Critic
Calin Rovinescu, President & CEO, Air Canada

Appendix A - Science-based Alternative to Ease Quarantine Act Restrictions

Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 Coronavirus Disease in Canada - Proposed Amendment to Orders-in-Council

  1. The various Orders-in-Council regarding entry into Canada from any country by any person, including Canadians, would be further modified.
  2. The Minister of Health, in consultation with the Minister of Transport, would establish a categorization of exempt countries that would be considered to present a lower risk from a public health perspective for passengers to enter Canada without a requirement for 14 days’ self-isolation (“Exempt Countries”), on the basis that these countries would pose no greater risk to Canadians than inter-provincial travel.
  3. The categorization of Exempt Countries would be informed by many factors including the prevalence of coronavirus within the country, the numbers of new cases and the potential trajectory over the coming weeks of COVID-19 in the country.
  4. The methodology and criteria for a country to be designated as an Exempt Country would be the following:
    1. It would have to have close to or below the Canadian average, as of July 15 2020, of new COVID-19 cases over the last 14 days and per 100 000 inhabitants;
    2. The trend of new cases in the country over the same period in comparison to the previous 14 days would be stable or decreasing; and
    3. Its overall response to COVID-19 would have to be seen as having been favourable, taking into account available information such as testing, surveillance, contact tracing, containment, treatment and reporting as well as the reliability of available information and data sources.
  5. Every two weeks, the list of Exempt Countries would be reviewed, and as the case may be updated, by the Minister of Health, on consultation with the Minister of Transport, based on an overall assessment using the methodology, criteria and information referred to above.
  6. For countries that would not qualify as Exempt Countries given a higher COVID-19 risk profile, a “Test-based” Model would be adopted, permitting a potential reduction in the length of quarantine, based on a traveller undergoing a COVID-19 test at a designated facility within 72 hrs prior to departure and, if deemed appropriate, repeated again on arrival.

Notes:

  • Examples of jurisdictions having adopted variations of Test-based Models are:
    • Singapore-China safe corridor testing example
    • Caribbean islands pre-departure testing requirements – negative test within typically 7
      days to 72 hours prior to departure in order to travel
    • Waiver of quarantine with negative test – Iceland, Austria, Luxembourg
    • Testing required on arrival – South Korea, Hong Kong, Macao, United Arab Emirates
  • Potential List of Exempt Countries - based on exempt UK List
    • Andorra
    • Antigua and Barbuda
    • Aruba
    • Australia
    • Austria
    • Bahamas
    • Barbados
    • Belgium
    • Croatia
    • Curaçao
    • Cyprus
    • Czech Republic
    • Denmark
    • Dominica
    • Faroe Islands
    • Fiji
    • Finland
    • France
    • French Polynesia
    • Germany
    • Greece
    • Greenland
    • Grenada
    • Guadeloupe
    • Hong Kong
    • Hungary
    • Iceland
    • Italy
    • Jamaica
    • Japan
    • Liechtenstein
    • Lithuania
    • Luxembourg
    • Macau
    • Malta
    • Mauritius
    • Monaco
    • Netherlands
    • New Caledonia
    • New Zealand
    • Norway
    • Poland
    • San Marino
    • Serbia
    • Seychelles
    • South Korea
    • Spain
    • St Barthélemy
    • St Kitts and Nevis
    • St Lucia
    • St Pierre and Miquelon
    • Switzerland
    • Taiwan
    • Trinidad and Tobago
    • Turkey
    • Vietnam
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