(Adds comment from Canadian government)
Jan 7 (Reuters) – WestJet Airlines said on Thursday it had denied 10 passengers from boarding a flight for lacking the proper test for the novel coronavirus, just after a Canadian government requirement that passengers show proof of a negative result before boarding took effect.
Faced with a mounting second wave of infections, the government said last week that passengers would need to test negative for the coronavirus before boarding a plane bound for Canada, starting on Jan. 7.
Global airlines have been calling for COVID-19 testing as a way to ease travel restrictions and reopen borders without crippling quarantine measures, although Canada still requires international passengers to self-isolate for 14 days.
News of the surprise Canadian measure left airlines fearful of possible confusion over which testing facilities abroad were eligible and how the results from the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test must be presented to carriers.
WestJet said on Thursday it could not board the passengers because they did not have eligible tests to meet the requirement.
Air Canada, the country’s largest carrier, said it is helping some passengers obtain the tests.
“As expected, we are experiencing some challenges with customers who have not met the new government testing requirements,” spokeswoman Pascale Déry said.
A spokeswoman for Transport Minister Marc Garneau said government officials met with airlines to help develop the requirements and notify passengers before they took effect.
“We understand that the new requirements can create inconveniences and frustration for some travelers, but we are putting in place those requirements to protect the health of all Canadians,” Allison St-Jean said.
WestJet spokeswoman Morgan Bell said by email the carrier has rebooked the passengers denied boarding on the Thursday morning flight from Cancun to Calgary, but said the “situation further highlights the challenges travelers and our operations are facing” from the new requirements.
As of Wednesday, Canada had reported an additional 8,153 coronavirus cases and 136 deaths.
(Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal and Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Matthew Lewis, Marguerita Choy and Dan Grebler)
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