Some members of P.E.I.’s Chinese community are asking the Island’s Department of Health to expand options for COVID-19 testing, after the Chinese government imposed new requirements for travel.
Starting on Sept. 9, anyone boarding a flight from Canada to China needs to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within the past 72 hours.
Right now on P.E.I., testing is available only to those who have coronavirus symptoms or a close contact with symptoms.
“Right now, there is no policy here in the province to have people tested for travel reasons,” said Ally Guo, a member of the Island Chinese community who also volunteers within the community. “If you have no symptoms and no problem, they cannot test for you.”
Guo has recently started a social media group advocating for a testing option on P.E.I. for travel purposes — and she said at least 40 families have already joined.
The group has reached out to the Association for Newcomers to Canada, the Island’s Department of Health, MP Sean Casey, and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison.
“We are trying to communicate with Health, and try to get them involved to have that exception for those people required to submit that kind of report [so that] they can present their ticket information or something, to have that test done,” said Guo.
Grandmother among those needing test
One of the people trying to get back to China is Lihua Ji, who came to P.E.I. from Beijing in December for the birth of her grandson.
The plan was to stay for a couple months and return to China in March, but the pandemic made that impossible.
Since then, Lihua Ji has had four flights home cancelled. She’s got a ticket booked for Sept. 15, but isn’t sure how she’ll be allowed to board the flight unless she’s able to get tested for COVID-19 within three days of the trip.
Speaking through Guo, the new grandmother told CBC that she worries for her husband, who is in poor health and lives alone in China. She also said she brought only enough medication for a few months, and has been using less of it to stretch out what she’s got. That supply is quickly running out.
Would pay for testing
Guo said those wishing to travel internationally and require a negative COVID-19 test for travel are willing to pay the costs of being tested.
They can’t get them done privately, even if that were an available option, because the Chinese government specifies that for travel from Canada, the tests need to be administered by institutions designated or recognized by the Chinese embassy or consulates in Canada.
In P.E.I., the only acceptable tests would be administered by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown or the Prince County Hospital in Summerside.
Working on the issue: CPHO
Officials with the Chief Public Health Office say they are working on the possibility of a testing option for travel purposes, but don’t have any additional details at this time.
They say more countries are requesting this as a prerequisite for entry for travel so they do plan to address this.
No timelines have been provided, however.