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Letters: COVID testing chaos at YVR

A Richmond News reader has a less than pleasant experience when returning to Canada from the UK
Covid testing

Dear Editor,

Our media should take a hard look at COVID testing on arrival at YVR, for the benefit of future travellers.

If YVR is Canada’s second busiest airport, it is embarrassing that it has not sorted out a system that works  for passengers, testing staff, YVR staff, CBSA and whoever else is involved in this poorly organized fiasco.

Strong words I know, but this is coming from a senior traveller who had to endure the confusion and serious stress of the process, after a  15-hour journey from the U.K. Jan. 6.

I felt there were echoes of the situation that the late Mr. Dziekanski may have faced in 2007.

Everything went smoothly  through passport control and Arrive Can, thanks to the hours of hard work done the day prior to departure. But as we were heading to exit the Border Control area, a long lineup was crawling towards the testing area as a single CBSA agent checked each form and directed individuals to the testing area (Line A) or the exit area without testing (Line B). I was separated from my husband, who had all the luggage, and was directed to Line B. We were told we would reunite at the other end of the lines at the main exit (ground transportation).

Unfortunately, I did not get far before a testing staff person dragged me back, saying I was trying to get away from testing. I was finally allowed to proceed down the empty Line B, and emerged at the exit, where there was nowhere to wait for family members who are being tested. It was a major choke point. Families were trying to find coats in their luggage, as it was very cold outside, while security staff urged everyone to continue out of the exit.  I decided to go upstairs for a coffee.

Even though we had made testing reservations online the day before, he still had to go to the Line A check-in desk (after yet another long wait), where the staff person was able to confirm his registration. Then he opted for a Home Test rather than have the onsite test, which probably saved us another two hours of waiting.

It seems CBSA staff decide the number of people to be tested randomly. But why are family members separated during this process? What purpose does that serve, except to increase stress. And if more than one plane arrives at the same time, the whole system is overwhelmed.

The federal ministers of health, transportation and border security need to explain how they managed to create this 3-ring circus! The airport authority didn’t create this mess, but it has to deal with it daily. I do admire the patience of the staff and of all the passengers who have had to suffer from such poor organization.

The purpose of arrival testing still seems unclear, but the stress it generates for travellers to YVR is enormous.

Mary Phillips

RICHMOND

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