MONTREAL: The Canadian province of Quebec on Tuesday (Dec 29) urged the federal government to require COVID-19 testing for residents returning from year-end vacations, after images of maskless tourists frolicking on overseas beaches hit social media as cases rise.
Canada's travel restrictions are among the world's toughest, with non-essential foreigners normally denied entry and citizens returning from abroad mandated to quarantine.
But a second wave of the novel coronavirus has led to calls for increased airport testing, as hospitals fill up in the country's two most populous provinces.
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé said he is asking for vacationers returning to the province to be tested before departure, and stricter enforcement of a 14-day quarantine after they are home. Both Quebec and Ontario have asked the government for airport testing for international arrivals.
Dubé said his office was conferring with Canadian Minister of Health Patty Hajdu.
"The federal government tells us about the implementation of these measures in early January," he told reporters. "To us this is not fast enough."
Quebec, which has shuttered all non-essential businesses and limited restaurant service to take-out, on Tuesday reported an additional 2,381 cases and 64 deaths, stressing the health system, Dubé said.
COVID-19 cases in Canada reached 555,207 as of Dec 28.
Dubé denounced videos circulating on social media of Quebec tourists drinking alcohol in close proximity, such as one depicting revellers in Cancun, Mexico on the beach without masks.
"The situation for me is very worrisome," he said.
The Public Health Agency of Canada said in a statement that travel is down 90 per cent at airports compared with the previous year, and only around 2 per cent of all known COVID-19 cases in Canada have originated from travel outside the country.
Canada, which advises against non-essential travel, will continue to use "science and evidence" to inform any steps on border measures, it said.