Feds launched ArriveCan over fear paper spread COVID-19, says memo

The agency prefaced their non-evidence based assumption on suspicion the coronavirus could ‘live’ on and be transmitted via the paper forms, said the memo Benefits Of ArriveCan.

Feds launched ArriveCan over fear paper spread COVID-19, says memo
The Canadian Press / Adrian Wyld
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The Public Health Agency of Canada implemented the ArriveCan application out of fear that COVID-19 spread through customs forms, although there was no evidence the virus spread through surface contact.

“Between March 2020 and October 2022, the Public Health Agency of Canada processed 1,305,591 paper forms,” said the February 20 memo. “The total paid to process these forms was $4,176,130 or approximately $2.93 per form.”

Ottawa launched ArriveCan on April 22, 2020, claiming it would streamline the border-crossing process. However, the app only saved travellers “about five minutes” in the queue, according to the Department of Public Safety.

The surveillance app became a government-mandated tool for air and land travel from July 5, 2021, until it was discontinued on October 1, 2022.

“Early in the pandemic before the transmission vectors of Covid were well understood there was suspicion the virus could ‘live’ on and be transmitted via the paper forms,” said the memo Benefits Of ArriveCan

“All paper forms were collected using biohazard protocols and subsequently had to be digitized and uploaded into the Agency’s database,” it said. “This was a time intensive process.”

Receiving traveller quarantine details took upwards of five to eight days after entry to receive, it claimed. “Sometimes it took as long as 14 days to receive the information.” 

The memo attributed the delay to their “illegible handwriting.” 

While the agency was suspicious of COVID-transmissibility, their doctors never claimed that the virus was transmissible by paper, reported Blacklock’s Reporter

“The risk is not really out there,” Dr. Howard Njoo, deputy chief public health officer, told reporters March 23, 2020. “There should be no chance of interaction.”

Managers never identified the source of their paper germ theory, according to April 3 testimony from Jonathan Moor, a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) vice-president. He claimed an unidentified expert told managers that paper forms were unsafe.

“We were told we could catch COVID from touching documents,” said Moor. “Our number one priority initially working with that was to get the electronic form up and running.”

The vice-president made a similar claim in March 26 testimony at the Commons government operations committee. 

“A lot of the individual border services officers really were very reluctant to touch paper because the Public Health Agency had said you can catch COVID from touching paper, so the necessity to get a paperless process in place was really important,” he said.

“This is a time where people were crossing the border to return back to Canada.”

Vice-president Moor defended the Agency’s work. “I am very proud of what we did during the pandemic,” he said. “We know we made mistakes.”

Health Canada has repeatedly claimed vaccine mandates, lockdowns and other restrictive measures saved lives.

“We have done a study in which we modelled and almost 800,000 lives were saved,” Harpreet Kochhar, then-Agency president, testified on February 6, 2023, at the Commons public accounts committee.

The modelling scenarios used were questionable, with faulty parameters not reflective of real-world data

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