The Canadian government is extending current border measures for travellers entering Canada until at least Sept. 30, 2022, it was announced Wednesday (June 29).
The decision, posted on the Government of Canada’s website, was made to reduce the risk of the importation and transmission of COVID-19 and new variants in Canada “related to international travel.”
At the same time, the pause of mandatory random testing will continue at all airports “until mid-July” for travellers who qualify as fully vaccinated, official said.
The pause was first announced on June 11 so airports could focus on streamlining their operations amid a spike in passenger traffic.
The government, meanwhile, will move forward with moving COVID-19 testing for air travellers outside of airports to “test provider stores, pharmacies or by virtual appointment.”
At a press conference earlier Wednesday at Toronto Pearson airport, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said the government is still working on the details.
"We seem to be needing a little bit more time to address the logistics of moving it off the airport," Alghabra told reporters.
Mandatory random testing continues at land border points of entry, with no changes, Ottawa said.
As well, travellers who are not fully vaccinated (unless exempt) must continue to test on day one and day eight of their 14-day quarantine, officials said.
"The pandemic is not over"
The government says that moving testing outside of airports will allow Canada to adjust to increased traveller volumes “while still being able to monitor and quickly respond to new variants of concern, or changes to the epidemiological situation.”
The government called border testing “an important tool” that has been essential in slowing the spread of COVID-19.
“Data from the testing program are used to understand the current level and trends of importation of COVID-19 into Canada,” the government said, saying that the data its easing of border measures.
All travellers must continue to use ArriveCAN to provide mandatory travel information within 72 hours before their arrival in Canada, and/or before boarding a cruise ship destined for Canada with few exceptions, officials said.
The app, introduced in 2020, has come under intense criticism in recent weeks from border mayors, businesses and industry pros who says it acts as a deterrent for some travellers.
More efforts are being undertaken to enhance compliance with ArriveCAN, which is already over 95 per cent for travellers arriving by land and air combined, the government said.
"As we move into the next phase of our COVID-19 response, it is important to remember that the pandemic is not over,” said Jean-Yves Duclos, minister of health, in a statement. “We must continue to do all that we can to keep ourselves and others safe from the virus." It is also important for individuals to remain up to date with the recommended vaccinations to ensure they are adequately protected against infection, transmission, and severe complications.”
Drop all restrictions, says Roundtable
Yesterday, the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable, a coalition of travel industry leaders, called on the government to avoid reintroducing testing at airports and lift all remaining restrictions impacting travel.
Scrapping the entire testing program at airports will “ease the passenger experience,” particularly once staffing issues with third-party agencies have been dealt with, the Roundtable said in a statement.
“It is critical that the government not allow these restrictions to come back into force and push the sector backwards," the group said.
The coalition noted that Ottawa should “follow the overwhelming science and evidence" and consider other ways to assess community spread, such as community wastewater testing for tracking future variants.
The industry leaders are calling for the permanent lifting of the vaccine requirement for travel for both domestic and international travellers in addition to workers in the sector.
They are also advocating that ArriveCAN be used solely as a pre-entry declaration system to digitize border processing.