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Temperature screening for COVID-19 ineffective: Canada's top doctor

Last Updated May 4, 2020 at 10:59 pm CDT

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, arrives at a press conference on Parliament Hill during the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Monday, May 4, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Summary

Dr. Theresa Tam says most important aspect of current response is for travellers to quarantine for 14 days


Air Canada announces it will be taking the temperature of passengers before boarding


Tam also says people should no longer be allowed to come to work sick


OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) — Taking the temperature of people as a screening measure for COVID-19 is ineffective, especially by itself, according to Canada’s chief public health officer.

As more is understood about the novel coronavirus, the more it becomes clear temperature taking is “not effective at all” to identify people who have it, Dr. Theresa Tam said Monday.

“Even if you are infected, we know that the likelihood of picking up someone who is symptomatic is sort of, relatively, inefficient,” she added.

On the same day, Air Canada announced it will be taking the temperature of passengers before boarding.

“I think the most important aspect of our current response is to ensure that incoming travellers undergo the mandatory 14-day quarantine,” Tam said.

She also said as businesses and offices re-open across the country, people should no longer be allowed to come to work sick.

“Working while sick can no longer be a thing.”

She added everyone will have to keep practising physical distancing and cough etiquette, and stay home at the first sign of symptoms.

Tam said there are continuing signs that efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Canada are working, with the pandemic under good control in some places more than others.

“No matter where we live, living with COVID-19 is something we all need to reconcile with,” she added.

Air Canada introduced a new safety program Monday. In addition to mandatory temperature checks before boarding, passengers will receive kits with hand sanitizer and other safety items.

They will also have more personal space in economy class until at least July, while the airline will conduct electrostatic cabin spraying, as well as procedures that include hospital-grade disinfectant.

Customer face-coverings and employee personal protective equipment are also mandatory.

“While we are eager to see the reopening of economies and the restart of commercial aviation, the safety of our customers and employees is Air Canada’s core value and we aim to establish the highest standards of hygiene, cleanliness, and attention to public health guidelines,” Calin Rovinescu, president and chief executive officer of Air Canada, says in a release.

“We are now the first airline in the Americas to administer pre-flight temperature checks system-wide.”

The federal government made it mandatory in April for people flying to or from Canadian airports to wear face coverings while travelling.

To date, Canada has recorded more than 59,000 cases of COVID-19 and 3,766 deaths. Labs have conducted more than 900,000 tests for the virus, with about 6.5 per cent positive for it.