There are increasing calls for the federal government to drop the mandatory arrival testing requirement for travelers, a rule experts say does little to affect the spread of COVID-19 while badly needed testing resources are diverted from the provinces.

Ottawa is distributing thousands of PCR tests daily to fully vaccinated travelers — including Canadians — upon arrival as part of its COVID-19 screening efforts.

But with the Omicron variant already driving an unprecedented domestic spread of COVID-19, Jason Kindrachuk, an infectious disease expert at the University of Manitoba, says trying to stem travel-related cases of the virus is akin to “trying to get mosquitoes at it.” prevent circulating in the country summer.”

“We already know we have a huge number of mosquitoes – you’re not going to be able to do that,” Kindrachuk told CTV’s Your Morning Wednesday. “You can test for other species that may have a stronger bite or be able to circulate more, but that doesn’t mean you have to look at all the mosquitoes that are coming in.”

According to statistics from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), the test positivity rate is slightly higher in randomly tested, fully vaccinated travelers two percent. Across Canada, meanwhile, the test positivity rate is higher 20 percent.

This has raised questions about the government’s use of testing resources, even prompting Air Canada, WestJet and Toronto’s Pearson International Airport to do so, at a time of the pandemic when many provinces have been forced to restrict molecular PCR testing Write an open letter to the federal government demanding changes to the test reports.

“From a resource standpoint, we need to estimate where we are right now, and we’re already seeing limitations within the country when trying to assess where Omicron is in our own communities,” Kindrachuk said, noting that Canada is in a difficult position in a very different place than at the end of November 2021, when Omicron was still isolated to certain regions.

“Now the question is, by identifying these cases, can you really stop any possible extra transmission? [at the border]? And I think the real answer is probably no.”

On Friday, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, acknowledged that the mandatory testing requirement is a “burden” on the system.

And while she stopped calling for an end to testing requirements, she suggested that Canada should stop “sequencing” every COVID-19 sample taken by travelers given Omicron’s global proliferation.

“The whole world has Omicron,” Tam told reporters. “We could do random testing instead of testing every single vaccinated person from other countries. But we will evaluate that over time.”

In a statement to, PHAC defended the requirements, calling them “critical at this time of reduced capacity in healthcare and other sectors.”

“This approach makes the most of the maximum federal testing capacity by identifying as many COVID-19 cases as possible. Individuals who test positive must be isolated to prevent further transmission of the infection,” the statement said.

“The government recognizes the need to monitor the impact of its testing program, including at sequencing levels, to ensure the program is working in synergy with provincial and territorial diagnostic programs.”