Ontario puts an end to free COVID-19 testing for international travel clearance

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TORONTO, ON- JULY 30 - Passengers are temperature screened at the departure gates at Pearson International Airport. Toronto will move into phase three of reopening with other parts of Ontario later in the week as the province tries to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Toronto. July 30, 2020. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images) (Steve Russell via Getty Images)

People in Ontario who plan to travel now have to pay for a COVID-19 test for international travel clearance, after the provincial government put an end to free, publicly funded tests.

“As the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic has changed, we have continued to adapt our approach to testing and the services we have made available,” a statement from Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health reads. “While international travellers are no longer eligible to receive a publicly funded COVID-19 test, we remain committed to ensuring that anyone who needs a test can get one quickly, at no cost.”

The provincial government has specified that this change, which came into effect Friday, has been made to “ensure taxpayer dollars are appropriately allocated to key priorities and to preserve capacity within the provincially funded COVID-19 testing network.”

Anyone who needs a COVID-19 test before arriving in their travel destination will have to look for local testing options at a private testing facility.

COVID-19 testing for international travel is available at select Shoppers Drug Mart stores in the province for $199 plus tax.

The provincial government has also stressed that everyone should limit close contact with people outside their household and travel is not recommended at this time.

“If you are considering travel and/or overnight stays, consider whether you, someone you live with, or anyone you plan to visit with is at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19,” the Ontario government advises.