Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.
And just like that, Canada’s pre-arrival COVID-19 testing rule came to end. Well, it will end in two weeks.
Confirming news that leaked via consumer media yesterday (March 16), federal officials held a press conference on Thursday (March 17) to officially announce that Canada will end its pre-entry COVID-19 testing requirement for all fully vaccinated travellers entering the country.
But randomized on-arrival testing (without having to quarantine while awaiting results) will remain in effect to track new COVID-19 variants, official said.
Unvaccinated and partially-vaccinated travellers will continue to receive a PCR test on arrival, and again on day eight, while they quarantine for 14 days.
Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos said "it's fair to say that we are now entering a transition phase of this pandemic," noting high vaccination rates, the availability of rapid testing and treatments that prevent people from getting very sick.
The pre-arrival testing rule will be lifted on April 1, Duclos said, which (unfortunately) doesn’t serve Canadians who are returning home from the March Break holiday period.
All travellers are still required to complete ArriveCAN online or through the app before entry to Canada.
"Today's announcement is encouraging, but let us remember that all measures are subject to review," Duclos said, saying how the government will adjust rules as the health situation evolves.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra also spoke Thursday, referring to the update as "the day that we have all been waiting for."
Minister Alghabra touched on the government's framework for restarting cruises, which was announced on March 7, noting that fully vaccinated passengers will need to take an antigen test no more than one day before their scheduled departure, but will no longer be required take a test before getting off a ship.
Travellers taking a cruise or a plane must submit their information in ArriveCAN within 72 hours before boarding.
Minister Alghabra said Canada's vaccine mandate for trains and plane, and the requirement to wear a mask in airports, remains.
The long-overdue change will come as welcome news for travel advisors, and the travel industry at large, which, for several months now, has been putting pressure on Ottawa to scrap testing rules at the border.
From April 1, fully vaccinated Canadians who travel internationally will no longer have to worry about getting stuck abroad over a positive COVID test.
Currently, those who test positive for the virus in destination aren’t able to board their flight home and must quarantine for up to ten days – even they are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic.
On Feb. 28, antigen tests replaced the previously-mandatory (and more time consuming and costly) pre-entry requirement for a molecular PCR test.
But many in Canada's travel and tourism sector say that any form of pre-arrival testing is a barrier to international travel.
The Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable has repeatedly called Canada’s border testing measure a “non-science-based” obstacle, leaning on the government’s own COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel, which, in May 2021, advised to eliminate pre-arrival testing for fully-vaxxed travellers, and testimonials from doctors who say testing at the border no longer makes sense.
The coalition of travel and tourism leaders has also pointed to other countries, such as Denmark, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Ireland, and Norway, that have eliminated testing rules completely.
Several press conference have been held in recent weeks to draw attention to this topic. A recent event was held in Toronto on March 10, which highlighted testing's impact on business travel and Toronto tourism.
Another conference was held on March 2 in Vancouver to demonstrate how border testing has impacted Indigenous tourism, as well as the sales of travel agencies.
The end of pre-arrival testing is complemented by Ottawa, last month, lifting its advisory against non-essential travel and eliminating a mandatory on-arrival test and isolation rule for vaccinated individuals.
Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance Randy Boissonnault said Thursday that Canada "is deeply invested in seeing its sector thrive again."
This is a developing story.
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