The Government of Canada is going to scrap its pre-arrival molecular COVID-19 testing requirement for fully vaccinated Canadians taking short trips, according to inside sources who spoke to CBC News.
The interviewed individuals, who were not named as they are not authorized to speak on the matter, say the change would impact trips that are 72 hours and less, CBC reported on Wednesday (Nov. 17).
The change will come into effect at the end of the month as the holiday shopping season begins, the sources said.
Pre-arrival molecular testing, such as PCR testing, will still be required for trips longer than 72 hours, reports say.
It is not clear if the relaxed restriction would apply to just the land border or both the land and air borders.
The news was first reported by La Presse, which implied the new policy would apply to those taking short trips to the United States.
Travel industry gets loud
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 requires 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.
While Canada has eased some border restrictions for fully vaccinated individuals, advocates in the travel industry have been protesting the PCR testing requirement, calling it a major barrier to restarting the sector.
Earlier this month, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the costly policy is “actively being looked at,” but did not state if whether the restriction would lift at both the land and air borders.
For almost a month now, the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable has been holding regular press conferences across the country to highlight “unnecessary and non-science-based obstacles to international travel,” such as pre-arrival PCR testing, and how it is decimating the sector.
A single PCR test can cost upwards of $300 per person and the processing time can take anywhere between 24 to 48 hours (sometimes longer).
The campaign ramped up on Oct. 28 at a press conference in Toronto, where Wendy Paradis, president of the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA), travel advisor Lorraine Simpson and Michael MacKenzie, executive director of Canadian Snowbird Association, explained how pre-arrival testing is impacting the seniors market.
A second press conference was held on Nov. 4 to highlight how barriers, like pre-arrival testing, disproportionately impact average Canadian families.
On Nov. 9, businesses in Alberta spoke at Mount Norquay in Banff National Park to highlight how barriers to travel, like pre-arrival PCR testing, are threatening the success of Alberta's ski season.
Then, on Nov. 10, officials from the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, the British Columbia Hotel Association, Vancouver-based travel agencies and Destination Vancouver expressed their concerns, noting that pre-arrival testing has brought business travel to "a complete halt.”
Leaders urged to streamline rules
Today (Nov. 17), the Roundtable, alongside American and Canadian business leaders, called on the Presidents of the United States and Mexico and Canada's Prime Minister to streamline cross-border travel rules when they meet at tomorrow's Three Amigos Summit in Washington.
“Removing the mandatory pre-departure PCR test requirement for fully vaccinated travellers coming into Canada is critical for a strong economic recovery in North America,” the Roundtable, a cross-Canadian coalition of leaders in the tourism and travel sector, said in a news release.
A pre-departure PCR test for arrivals into Canada runs counter to the recommendations made by the Canadian federal government's COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel, which, in May, concluded that fully vaccinated travellers should not have to undergo a pre-arrival test for a trip of any duration.
“American and Canadian leaders have worked together to solve greater cross-border risks; we need to continue this approach,” said John Manley, Canada's Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, in a statement.
“The mandatory pre-departure PCR test for fully vaccinated travellers is not rooted in science and should be removed."