Trudeau government places health officials at US border crossings to screen for coronavirus

Public Health officials are to be placed at the Canada-US border to improve screening for coronavirus as more travellers have started entering the country.
Sam Edwards High Level, Alberta

Public Health officials are to be placed at the Canada-US border to improve screening for coronavirus as more travellers have started entering the country in recent weeks, reports CBC News.

On-site employees are being added to 36 points of entry by the Public Health Agency of Canada. Included in the locations are New Brunswick, Edmundston, St. Stephen and Woodstock.

The news comes as the US recently saw a rise in new coronavirus cases and traffic has increased across the border following a loosening of restrictions.

Prince Edward Island experienced a new cluster of cases that are linked to cross-border travel—specifically a traveller with a student visa from the US.

Health Canada spokesperson Tammy Jarbeau noted that the "increased presence" of officials will be located at points of entry that include air and land. These locations see roughly 90 percent of travellers.

"PHAC officials, including quarantine officers, clinical screening officers and screening officers will be on-site to screen travellers entering Canada at these ports of entry," she said.

Traffic between the border has risen following recent exemptions, such as that for immediate family members, who must then quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

The cross border travel is also allowed for medical care, work and study, essential supply chain goods and services and health reasons.

Infection control epidemiologist Colin Furness who is a University of Toronto associate professor noted that the medical screening does not fall under the responsibilities of Canadian Border Service Agency officers.

"That's a problem," Furness said. "We just assume that we can just charge the customs and immigration folks with essentially doing public health work."

CBSA spokesperson Mark Stuart said officers ask every traveler about their health and purpose for visiting.

"CBSA officers remain vigilant and are highly trained to identify travellers seeking entry into Canada who may pose a health and safety risk," he said.

Travellers suspected of being sick will be referred to a Public Health Agency worker who will then further assess them. Officers will also judge whether they believe a traveller will be able to follow proper self-isolation procedures.

The number of travellers crossing the border has risen from roughly 115,000 per week in late April/early May to 175,000 per week in late June. The figures include both non-commercial and commercial traffic, according to the CBSA.

That time period has also seen the amount of non-commercial land travellers almost double from approximately 3,300 per week to 6,500.

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