Starting next Monday, February 15, travellers entering Canada through the land border will need to show a negative COVID-19 PCR test processed within 72 hours, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday (Feb. 9).
The new measure brings land border crossings up to speed with Canada's current rules for international air arrivals.
If travellers, such as snowbirds driving home to Canada, don't have a test in hand at the land border, does this mean that Canada will turn them away?
“No,” Trudeau told reporters, speaking from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, speaking in French.
“It’s not legal for Canada to refuse entrance into Canada from someone who has the right to enter, who is a Canadian citizen,” Trudeau said. "When they come to the border in Canada, they are already on Canadian territory.”
“We cannot send them back to the United States if they are Canadian or if they are a permanent resident.”
Trudeau highlighted the “major difference” between air borders and land borders.
“You can prevent someone from boarding a flight in Miami or elsewhere,” Trudeau said. “You can’t prevent someone who is standing at a land border crossing from entering Canada because technically they’re already on Canadian soil when they’re speaking to that customs officer.”
So while travellers without tests will be allowed to cross, “a stiff penalty” or fine will be applied to those who fail to show a test to border officials, Trudeau said.
Just how stiff of a penalty? Up to $3,000 dollars per person, Trudeau said.
“There will be measures we are implementing to ensure there is follow-up on these people to ensure they’re not putting other Canadians at risk by coming back to Canada,” Trudeau said.
The Prime Minister noted how the vast majority of people entering Canada at the U.S. land border are essential workers, such as truckers and nurses.
Non-essential travellers represent about five per cent of land crossings, he said.
A hotel quarantine too?
But will travellers crossing the U.S. land border be placed in supervised hotels, like air travellers will soon experience?
Mandatory hotel quarantine for international arrivals is a measure that will formalize soon, said Trudeau, suggesting that a start date will be announced in the coming days.
Isolation hotels near airports have already been operating for several months now as this is where international arrivals are sent if they're unable to present a quarantine plan.
“Obviously we’re going to be working to ensure that these mechanisms for our land borders apply as well,” he said.
Don't miss a single travel story: subscribe to PAX today!