The B.C. government was first to deploy its own staff to airports enforce federal COVID-19 quarantine rules for people returning from outside Canada, and now it has persuaded one airline to share passenger lists for contract tracing.
After provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry went public about the lack of passenger contact information for coronavirus contact tracing when a passenger tests positive, WestJet has agreed to share its information after a meeting with B.C. officials.
WestJet is the first airline to join B.C. restaurants, bars and other businesses that collect customer contact information so public health can follow up if there is possible exposure to the virus on a given day.
“Throughout this pandemic, our contact tracers have had challenges reaching people who were exposed to the virus while flying, because of the limited information available on traditional flight manifests,” Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a statement Aug. 28. “While the federal government regulates the airline industry, WestJet representatives met with us earlier this month to hear from us directly on how they could help.
“The decision they announced today – to collect names and contact information for each of their passengers at check-in and share it with public health if a COVID-19 case is identified on a flight – is something we discussed at that meeting and will help us immensely.”
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control maintains an online list of flights where one or more passenger has tested positive, giving the dates and where available, the seat rows adjacent to the infected person.
The most recent domestic flights listed are Flair flight 8711 from Vancouver to Edmonton on Aug. 24, Air Canada flight 305 from Calgary to Kelowna on Aug. 18, and the same day, WestJet 3387 from Calgary to Kelowna.