Two airline passengers fined $22,000 over fake tests, vaccine certificates

Before two passengers flew from the United States to Toronto last month, they submitted required copies of their vaccination cards and negative coronavirus test results to a portal reviewed by Canadian authorities.

But it wasn't until they arrived in Canada the week of July 18 that officials discovered the documents the pair presented were fraudulent, the Public Health Agency of Canada said in a news release Friday.

Now, each passenger must pay fines totaling nearly $US16,000 (about $A22,000) for submitting "false documentation" and failing to comply with quarantine and testing requirements.

"The Government of Canada will continue to investigate incidents reported and will not hesitate to take enforcement action where it is warranted to protect the health of Canadians from the further spread of COVID-19 and its variants of concern," according to an agency statement.

Authorities did not identify the pair nor provide additional information about their travel itinerary.

Both travellers were Canadian citizens, the country's health agency told The Washington Post.

Canada reported 907 new cases of the coronavirus on July 30, according to data from Canada's public health agency. That same day, the United States reported 102,975 new cases, according to data compiled by The Post's coronavirus tracker.

In Canada, airline passengers who are not fully vaccinated against the coronavirus must spend three nights upon arrival at a hotel approved by the government and submit proof of a 14-day quarantine plan, even if they have tested negative for the coronavirus or have already recovered from the illness. They must also submit proof of a negative coronavirus test taken at least 72 hours before their flight. Upon arrival, passengers must get a second coronavirus test and collect a kit containing a test they must take on Day 8 of their quarantine.

Last month, Canadian health authorities announced that fully vaccinated air travellers can be exempted from the hotel requirement if they submit proof of vaccination and a negative coronavirus test result to ArriveCAN, the government's electronic portal. They must still be tested upon entry and submit a quarantine plan in case they are not approved for the exemption.

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The case involving the Toronto travellers is yet another example of airline passengers who have refused to comply with COVID safety requirements as more countries loosen their nonessential travel restrictions. Throughout the pandemic, unruly passengers have defied flight attendants and refused to wear masks during their flights as required. One couple boarded a flight to Hawaii in November, despite having tested positive for the coronavirus.

Those who submit false information or documents to Canadian authorities upon entry are subject to fines and criminal charges. The offence carries a maximum fine of about $US600,000 and up to six months in jail. It could also lead to prosecution for forgery under the country's criminal code.

In the case of the two travellers who entered Canada from the United States in mid-July, the Canadian health agency issued each passenger four fines totaling $US15,820 for "providing false information related to proof of vaccination credentials and pre-departure tests" and for "non-compliance with the requirement to stay at a government-authorised accommodation and on-arrival testing requirements."

"These are the first travellers who have been issued fines for providing fraudulent vaccination information," the agency told The Washington Post, adding that it would not provide additional details, citing the privacy of those involved and judicial process.

The Washington Post

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