A review into Canada’s strict travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic has claimed they did little to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
The report, called Evaluating Canada’s Pandemic Border and Travel Policies: Lessons Learned, was written by four Canadian doctors specializing in infectious diseases and pandemic management, and was published just days before the country said it would lift all entry restrictions from Oct. 1.
It said that mandatory arrival and departure testing, quarantines, travel advisories, and other border restrictions did not materially reduce the spread of variants of concern across Canada.
The report echoes a review carried out in July into the UK’s “traffic light” system of travel restrictions, on which the government spent $585 million. The UK government, ultimately, did not know whether the system worked or whether the cost was worth the disruption caused, according to the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons.
However, it’s worth noting that this latest study may be self-serving; it was commissioned by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada in partnership with the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable.
However, they argue that with the benefit of hindsight — namely more than two years of analysis — there was no scientific basis to apply stricter health measures to travel and tourism than to other industries.
“Enough time has passed for us to make a scientific assessment as to whether the travel restrictions introduced by the federal government were successful in containing the spread of the virus and its variants,” said Dr. Zain Chagla, Infectious Diseases Physician and Associate Professor at McMaster University.
“At best, travel restrictions are estimated to delay the impact of a variant of concern by a few days,” the report stated.
It also found there was no convincing evidence that pre-departure and on-arrival testing and surveillance had a significant impact on local transmission in Canadian communities.
Alternative measures, such as community wastewater testing, were also deemed to be more accessible surveillance mechanisms to identify variants without inconveniencing travelers and requiring significant government and industry resources.