Air Canada will soon require all guests to have their temperature read, in a May 4, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Air Canada will soon require all guests to have their temperature read, in a May 4, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Companies beef up COVID-19 measures with masks and temperature checks

But checks aren’t fail proof

TORONTO — When travellers board Air Canada flights, they will have more than their tickets checked.

The Montreal-based airline will soon require all guests to have their temperature read, helping Air Canada detect potential travellers with COVID-19 symptoms.

Similar checks have been implemented on a voluntary basis for two weeks at T&T Supermarket locations and starting Monday, shoppers at Longo Brothers Fruit Markets Inc. are required to wear face masks to enter stores.

The policies are part of a handful of increased protective measures companies are launching as provinces across Canada slowly start to reopen.

The measures are expected to change how we shop, work, travel and play.

“We have to get used to the fact that we will have to maintain physical distancing, but it’s not always going to be possible and so adding the mask gives a little extra layer of precaution,” said Vivek Goel, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

“We need to restore public confidence so that when (people are) going out to the store or getting on an airplane, they’re going to be as safe as possible.”

Some businesses have moved toward taking temperatures because it reinforces and reminds people that if they have a temperature, a cough or a runny nose, they should stay home.

The checks aren’t fail proof because some who contract the virus are asymptomatic at first or never develop any signs of COVID-19, said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief medical officer of health.

“The more you actually understand this virus, the more you begin to know that temperature-taking is not effective at all,” she said Monday.

Masks have similarly been a source of controversy for public health officials who deemed them unnecessary when the pandemic began.

Michael Bryant, the executive director and general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said some measures can be concerning because “you’re giving store employees and airline employees a new power that they are exerting over other people to either deny them entry or even just simply to take their temperature.”

Bylaw officers given similar powers have so far been “overzealous” in their reprimands, which could happen at businesses, he warned.

There are also lot of unknowns about what is being done with the data these companies collect and how it will be used in the future, Bryant said.

While people in urban centres can “vote with their feet,” by not visiting supermarkets or flying with airlines with specific measures in place, not everyone is so fortunate.

“In regions where there isn’t consumer choice, this is a very big decision … because it threatens people’s food security if they have no other place to go to get food,” he said.

Despite the concerns, Goel said mask requirements and temperature checks are bound to become common sightings as companies reopen.

Already grocery stores have gone a few steps further with plexiglass shields for cashiers, special shopping hours for seniors and staggered lines keeping people at least about two metres apart.

They have also asked shoppers to stop bringing reusable bags to stores and have removed self-serve and sample foods.

The mask requirement is newer.

Gabriel Comanean, a Markham, Ont.-based renovations worker, first noticed grocery stores introducing the requirement for shoppers on a trip to Field Fresh Foods in Toronto with his wife at the end of March.

“We went there shopping and then they asked us to leave,” he said. “We didn’t have masks on.”

A worker at the grocery store later verified the policy in a call with The Canadian Press.

Comanean was initially taken aback by the request, but the couple later returned with masks and now wears them whenever they go shopping.

“It’s safer to have a mask on, not only for yourself, but for other people and protecting them,” Comanean said.

For Air Canada, masks are just the start of precautions.

Canadians are being encouraged to stay home and avoid flying, but the airline has developed a plan for when restrictions are loosened, including infrared temperature checks, requiring face coverings, revising food policies to minimize crew and passenger contact and beginning eclectrostatic cabin spraying to disinfect planes.

“To promote physical distancing and provide more personal space onboard our aircraft, we will block the sale of adjacent seats in economy class … until at least June 30,” added senior executive Lucie Guillemette, on the company’s Monday earnings call.

As more businesses start to open, Goel expects them to be confronted by issues they have never encountered before, such as how many people to allow on an elevator at once or whether people should only be allowed to ride if they are wearing a mask.

In classrooms and at movie theatres, cleanings will need to be increased and some patrons may want to bring along their own wipes to give their seat an extra scrub.

Companies, he said, are going to have to warn customers and employees about changes in advance and make it simple to follow the guidelines.

“They’re going to have to make it as easy as possible,” he said. “There’s going to have to be a pretty significant change in public attitude.”

However, Goel said public needs to be reminded that while more measures can stop the spread of the disease, they won’t catch and prevent every COVID-19 case.

“We have to be prepared to accept that there will be some cases of COVID-19 as we start to reopen things,” he said.

“We’re going to have to weigh that against the benefits of staying locked up forever.”

— with files from Christopher Reynolds in Montreal and Mia Rabson in Ottawa.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 4, 2020.

Air CanadaAir Travel

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Three new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, Alberta under 10,000 active cases

The Central zone sits at 849 active cases, with 52 people in hospital and 10 in the ICU.

Black Press File Photo
Maskwacis RCMP lay charges for attempted murder, kidnapping, and flight from police

Female victim remains in hospital in serious condition.

(File photo)
After several years in limbo, Parkland Manor to be torn down

Rimoka Housing Foundation has received funding and approval for the demolition

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced 16 additional deaths Thursday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
No easing of Alberta’s COVID-19 measures Thursday, 678 new COVID-19 cases

The province also hit 1,500 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic

Lucas Berg, left, with the backpacks filled with essential items he donated to the Red Deer Mustard Seed Jan. 19, 2021. (Photo submitted)
Ponoka youth fills backpacks for less fortunate

Lucas Berg, 14, of Ponoka County, donated 20 backpacks he filled with necessities

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, updates media on the COVID-19 situation in Edmonton, Friday, March 20, 2020. Hinshaw says residents in long-term care and supportive living facilities will remain the priority as the province grapples with a looming slowdown in COVID-19 vaccine supply. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta long-term care residents remain priority in looming slowdown of COVID vaccine

There are 119 patients in intensive care and 1,463 people have died

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
‘Gut punch’: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney blasts Biden on revoked Keystone XL permit

Kenney said he was upset the U.S. wouldn’t consult with Canada first before acting

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Prince Edward Island’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. A lozenge plant in Prince Edward Island has laid off 30 workers, citing an “almost non-existent” cold and cough season amid COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Almost non-existent’ cold and cough season: P.E.I. lozenge plant lays off 30 workers

The apparent drop in winter colds across the country seems to have weakened demand for medicine and natural remedies

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Calgary flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

(Photo submitted)
Community Futures brings back Social Media Challenge for 2021

This time the challenge is for non-profits and community groups

A conveyor belt transports coal at the Westmoreland Coal Co.’s Sheerness mine near Hanna, Alta., on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. Coal mining impacts are already occurring in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains even as debate intensifies over the industry’s presence in one of the province’s most beloved landscapes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
As Alberta debates coal mining, industry already affecting once-protected Rockies

UCP revoked a policy that had protected eastern slopes of the Rockies from open-pit coal mining since 1976

Most Read