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Opinion: Random COVID-19 testing for Canadian travellers saw a ridiculous 9 kits sent to me

Feds need to re-think program
Airplane. | File photo

My husband and I were fortunate to spend the holiday season in Hawaii. We know were lucky to be able to get away. However the frustration, waste, and absurdity of random airport testing is something I feel compelled share with others.

Any person climbing onto an airplane destined for Canada must provide proof of double vaccination, as well as proof of negative COVID test within the previous 24 hours to board the flight.

My husband and I met both those requirements when we returned from Hawaii.

Unfortunately, I was one of the unlucky people to be selected for random testing upon arrival at YVR. Despite having just spent 24 hours a day together for the previous 11 days, sharing forks, drinks, and whatever else married couples share, I was to be tested, my husband was not.

I was given a kit to bring home, that I was required to take within 24 hours of our 1 a.m. arrival on Jan. 5.

The first problem occurred when it came to booking my video appointment. The earliest time slot I could reserve was 30-hours post-arrival at 6 a.m. on Jan. 6.

Within about a minute of logging on for my appointment, the second problem presented itself. The clinician on the video informed me my kit was faulty. He told me they would send me a replacement kit. Until it arrived, I was required to quarantine. Which I did.

I received an email on Jan. 6 confirming a replacement kit had been shipped; it did not arrive until late afternoon Jan. 10. Five days after I arrived home and halfway through 10-day quarantine.

As soon as the kit arrived, I logged on to LifeLabs/FlyClear to again reserve a testing appointment. The earliest available time was Jan. 12. But here was where the third problem ensued. You must register your kit to book an appointment. Once you register the kit, FlyClear emails an access code that you must enter to complete the booking. I registered my kit, but no access code email arrived. I could not figure out how to bypass the code, nor get the system to issue me a new one. I did, however, find a tab that allowed me to order another replacement kit. So, I did that. And the wait in quarantine continued.

Late in the afternoon on Jan. 13, I received not one, but four kits by courier. So now I had received six kits! I logged onto the booking system and the earliest available time slot was now on the 15th. Additionally, these are not testing kits they are swab kits. You swab in front of a clinician via video, then courier the swab back to the lab for testing and wait for results. My 10-day quarantine ended on Jan. 15, and I would have to wait at least another two days to get my result which extended beyond my required quarantine. So, I didn’t bother with the testing and stayed in quarantine.

I set myself free on Jan. 15, never having experienced any symptoms. I emailed FlyClear and explained I had been sent extra tests. They responded assuring me that I would not receive any more. Three hours later, three more test kits arrived on my doorstep. And then on the 21st, I got another email saying my replacement test kit had been shipped, making me think even more are on the way.

I was shipped a total of nine testing kits! Multiple kits were shipped on the same day! The kits were shipped to Coquitlam from Brampton, Ontario and then need to be couriered back to the lab. How much do these couriers cost? Three were shipped 16 days after I arrived home. Why? How many more test kits have been wasted?

If random testing is a policy the government wants to enlist, then why not hand out actual test kits, not swab kits? The self-administered tests we used in Hawaii before flying home included the actual testing device. It was not necessary to courier swab samples and was a much more efficient process.

Perhaps most importantly, what is the reasoning behind these random tests? From my experience, it appears they do nothing but cost taxpayers money, cause unnecessary lineups and delays at the airport during a time when we are encouraging social distancing, and frustrate travelers to the point of madness. It is time for the Feds to re-evaluate this policy. In the meantime, I wait with bated breath to see how many more test kits I receive.

- Racquel Foran is a freelance writer who lives in Coquitlam