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The Government of Canada is removing its COVID-19 testing requirement for air travellers arriving from the People's Republic of China, Hong Kong or Macao.
The update, announced Thursday (March 16), will kick in at 12:01 a.m. EDT on Friday, March 17, 2023, according to a press release.
This means air travellers to Canada originating from the aforementioned places will no longer be required to provide evidence of a COVID-19 test result before boarding.
It also means that there will no longer be any federal COVID-19 border measures in place after that time.
“While this is good news, we need to remain vigilant,” stated Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health. “We should all complete our COVID-19 vaccine series and additional recommended doses, and continue to do all that we can to protect ourselves and those around us."
READ MORE: Canadians support testing travellers from China, but question its efficacy: poll
Ottawa introduced its pre-departure testing measure on Jan. 5 in response to a surge in COVID-19 cases in China and due to the “limited data” that was available at that time.
Canada wasn’t alone – several other countries, including the United States, Australia, France, Spain and England, also tightened their COVID rules for flights from China.
Federal officials said Thursday that the COVID-19 situation in both China and Canada has improved and that “the Canadian healthcare systems remain stable.”
Furthermore, the Canadian government, through wastewater sampling, has not detected any new variants of concern, but said it will “not hesitate” to adjust measures if need be.
“While we are encouraged that the epidemiological situation has improved in both China and Canada, and that temporary test requirements for air travellers put in place in early 2023 can now be lifted, we know we must remain vigilant in the fight against COVID-19 and its variants,” stated Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra. “We will continue to make decisions based on the best public health advice and will adjust our measures accordingly to keep travellers, transportation workers and our transportation system safe and secure."
A knee-jerk reaction?
The restrictions placed on China, though adapted by many nations, still faced criticism: in particular, from the International Air Transport Association's (IATA's) Director General Willie Walsh.
“It is extremely disappointing to see this knee-jerk reinstatement of measures that have proven ineffective over the last three years,” Walsh said in a statement in January.
Medical experts in Canada also expressed doubt on the effectiveness of pre-departure testing.
In an interview the Canadian Press earlier this year, Kerry Bowman, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto's Temerty Faculty of Medicine, called Canada's testing rules for China "absolutely a political move, and not based on science at this point."
"This isn't the early days of the pandemic," Bowman told CP. "So, I do think it's largely political."
Still, it seemed Canadians were supportive of policy – even if they were unsure if it was effective at reducing the spread of COVID-19 in Canada.
According to a survey released in January, out of 1,611 Canadian adults, those who supported the policy (77%) outnumbered those who were opposed (16%) by nearly five-to-one.
NACC applauds news
The National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC), which represents Air Canada, Air Transat, Jazz Aviation and WestJet, took to Twitter on Thursday to applaud the news.
"Aviation is a global industry that relies on collaboration, consistency, and predictability. Canada's airlines welcome today's announcement by the Government of Canada that will see an end to COVID-19 testing requirements for travellers from China," the Council wrote.
"In keeping with our position throughout the pandemic, NACC continues to stress the importance of measures that are rooted in science and data-based decision-making."
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