The federal government has confirmed that fully vaccinated Canadians taking short trips abroad will no longer need to present a pre-entry molecular (PCR) COVID-19 test to return home.
The new policy, which leaked via news outlets earlier this week, kicks in on Nov. 30.
The relaxed restriction will only apply to Canadians and permanent residents who have had their full series of COVID shots and who depart and re-enter Canada within 72 hours
The new rule applies to both land and air borders and travellers must demonstrate that they have been away from Canada for less than 72 hours, says the Government of Canada on its website.
The rule will also apply to unvaccinated people with a right of entry if they are under the age of 12 and accompanied by their fully vaccinated parents or have certain medical conditions preventing them from being vaccinated.
Good but not great
Canada first introduced a COVID-19 test requirement for air travellers at the height of the pandemic in January. The government then extended the rule to land travellers the following month.
The rule has required all travellers entering Canada to show proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular test taken within 72 hours of their departing flight or arrival at the land border.
For almost a month now, the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable has been holding regular press conferences to highlight “unnecessary and non-science-based obstacles to international travel,” such as pre-arrival PCR testing, and how it is decimating the sector.
Though Ottawa's latest announcement can be seen as a step in the right direction, it doesn't serve travel advisors who are, for example, trying to book a seven-day, out-of-country holiday for their clients.
"For the average Canadian family, travel is becoming increasingly difficult," the Roundtable said earlier this month. "The burdensome cost of a PCR test can add over CAD $200 per person or an additional $800 for a family of four for a round trip cross-border flight. This fee is proving cost-prohibitive to many Canadian families."
Canada expands approved vaccines
Also effective Nov. 30, 2021, Canada will expand its list of COVID-19 vaccines that travellers can receive to be considered fully vaccinated for the purpose of travel to Canada.
The list will include Sinopharm, Sinovac and COVAXIN, matching the World Health Organization Emergency Use Listing.
Tightening the screws
Also, as of Jan. 15, 2022, certain groups of travellers who are currently exempt from entry requirements, will only be allowed to enter Canada if they are fully vaccinated with one of the vaccines approved for entry into Canada.
These groups include:
- individuals travelling to reunite with family;
- international students who are 18 years old and older;
- professional and amateur athletes;
- individuals with a valid work permit, including temporary foreign workers (outside of those in agriculture and food processing); and
- essential service providers, including truck drivers.
After Jan. 15, 2022, unvaccinated or partially vaccinated foreign nationals will only be allowed to enter Canada if they meet the criteria for limited exceptions.
Exempt unvaccinated travellers will continue to be subject to testing, quarantine, and other entry requirements, Ottawa says.
“Non-exempt unvaccinated or partially vaccinated foreign nationals will be prohibited entry into Canada,” reads a statement on the Government of Canada’s website.
(Click here for complete details).
Transition period ends on Nov. 30
Starting Nov. 30, vaccination will be required for travel within and out of Canada.
“No matter the final destination, ensuring travellers are vaccinated against COVID-19 protects travellers and transportation workers,” said Transport Minister Omar Alghabra in a statement.
A valid COVID-19 molecular test will no longer be accepted as an alternative to vaccination unless travellers are eligible for one of the limited exemptions, such as a medical inability to be vaccinated.
(Ottawa announced a mandatory vaccine requirement for travel by air, train and sea for Oct. 30, but those who are “in the process” of being vaccinated, this month, have been able to bypass the rule with a negative COVID test).
“Travellers should contact their airline or railway company to obtain the necessary form and submit it in accordance with their carrier's approval process as of November 30,” the government said.
“Health and safety will always remain at the forefront of any decision our government makes in the fight against COVID-19,” Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said on Friday (Nov. 19). “The upcoming changes to Canada’s border testing and entry requirements reflect the next stage in our government’s approach as we align with the improving vaccination rates both here in Canada and around the world.”
“The situation at our borders remains closely monitored, with officials and experts continuing their work to evaluate the measures in place and recommend necessary adjustments as required.”