As of Nov. 30, fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents returning home after short trips to the United States and abroad will no longer be required to provide evidence of a negative molecular test, such as a PCR test. (Associated Press)
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TORONTO, Ontario — As of Nov. 30, fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents returning home after short trips to the United States and abroad will no longer be required to provide evidence of a negative molecular test, such as a PCR test.
The federal government has announced it is lifting the molecular testing requirement for travelers who have received a full COVID-19 vaccine series when they return to Canada after less than 72 hours.
For trips abroad lasting longer than 72 hours, the molecular testing requirement will continue to apply.
“The upcoming changes to Canada’s border controls and entry requirements reflect the next stage in our government’s approach as we join forces with improving vaccination rates both here in Canada and around the world,” said Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos during the briefing.
Despite the easing of travel restrictions, Duclos warned Canadians “cannot be on their guard” and said everyone must “work hard to protect the gains we have made” from COVID-19.
In addition to the change in return testing, the federal government has announced that travelers who have received the Sinopharm, Sinovac and Covaxin COVID-19 vaccines will be considered fully vaccinated for travel purposes by the end of the month, in accordance with the approved COVID-19 vaccines. for use by the World Health Organization.
Duclos noted that officials are monitoring the situation at the border “closely” and will evaluate these measures and recommend “necessary adjustments”.
Public Security Minister Marco Mendicino said at Friday’s briefing that travelers are still required to enter their travel information into the ArriveCAN app and are responsible for “retaining evidence” of their 72-hour window to allow airlines, rail companies and government officials see “as required.”
“Remember, providing false information to an official of the Government of Canada upon entry into Canada is a serious offense and could lead to severe penalties or even criminal charges,” he said.
The federal government lifted the global advice asking Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside the country in October, but continues to advise against traveling on cruise ships.
The US government reopened its land border to non-essential Canadian travelers on Nov. 8, while allowing air travel to the US under certain conditions.
Previous border measures required all travelers entering Canada, regardless of vaccination status, to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular test within 72 hours of crossing the land border or of flight departure.
For trips of less than 72 hours, travelers are allowed to take a COVID-19 test in Canada prior to departure under current rules, then show Canadians the results upon their return.
These rules will remain in effect until November 30.
Molecular tests can cost between $150 and $300. Antigen tests, which generally cost as little as $40 to $60, are not accepted for entry into Canada.
Pressure is mounting on the federal government from politicians and tourism companies on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border to lift the entry requirement for a short-travel PCR test, arguing that the expensive tests travel between the two discourage countries.
Critics have also called for the testing requirement to be removed entirely for fully vaccinated tourists, but Canada is expected to take a more gradual approach to easing some of the pandemic-related measures at the border.
Canada opened its borders in October to non-essential international travelers who have received both doses of a Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccine, and fully vaccinated Americans have been allowed to cross the border into Canada since August, subject to certain eligibility requirements.
dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, said the federal government is taking a “staged approach” when it comes to allowing fully vaccinated tourists into the country without a negative molecular test.
Tam said on Friday that allowing Canadian travelers to re-enter first without the short-travel PCR test will help “reduce” the “risk” of increased COVID-19 cases from abroad. She added that the discrepancy between Canadian and American travelers at the moment is more a reflection of “operational considerations”.
Tam said public health authorities are better able to monitor Canadian citizens and permanent residents on their return to Canada than U.S. visitors.
However, the Americans may soon be next.
New York Congressman Brian Higgins told CTV’s Power Play on Thursday that Canada plans to abolish travel requirements for PCR testing for fully vaccinated travelers in three phases: “Canadians first, Americans, followed by everyone else.”
Duclos said the federal government will “re-evaluate eligibility requirements for US citizens coming to Canada” and provide an update “at a later date.”
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce was quick to criticize the decision, calling Ottawa’s change in testing requirements a “one-way door at the border.”
“Just as the Christmas shopping season — the most important time for retail — begins, Ottawa is making it easier for Canadians to shop cross-border, while maintaining sanctions restrictions that discourage fully-vaccinated Americans from vacationing or shopping in Canada,” President of the Chamber and CEO Perrin Beatty said in a statement Friday.
“The 72-hour limit is also arbitrary. It’s hard to understand how travelers are at low risk for 72 hours but become a hazard at hour 73.”
The National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents Canada’s largest airlines, including Air Canada and WestJet, also criticized the changes, saying they don’t go far enough.
President and CEO Mike McNaney said in a statement Friday that pre-departure PCR tests should be lifted for all passengers who have been fully vaccinated and says the federal government is taking a “patchy approach” by focusing only on short trips and Canadian travelers. .
“The pre-departure test is simply no longer warranted for fully vaccinated travelers,” McNaney said. “It is not the duration of the journey or the passenger’s nationality that is relevant, but the traveler’s vaccination status that is decisive.”
The federal government said Friday that certain groups of travelers, currently exempt from entry requirements, must be fully vaccinated with a Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccine to enter the country.
“Given the greater availability of these vaccines in many parts of the world, we will also further reduce the number of entry waivers for adults who are not fully vaccinated,” Duclos said.
These changes apply to all essential service providers, including truck drivers, work permit holders, including temporary foreign workers, as well as other groups such as international students and athletes.
After January 15, 2022, the federal government says unvaccinated or partially vaccinated aliens will only be allowed to enter Canada under “limited exceptions,” which apply to certain groups such as agricultural and food-processing workers, sea crews, new permanent residents, resettlement of refugees and those entering the country on “compassionate grounds”.
However, those who are exempt must still follow eligibility requirements, which include molecular testing and mandatory quarantine.
Unvaccinated aliens who are not exempt will be “denied entry into Canada”.
Immigration Secretary Sean Fraser said in a statement on Friday announcing the changes that requiring foreign nationals to be fully vaccinated will add “another important layer of protection at the border.”
“Many foreigners and international students arriving in Canada are already fully vaccinated, and the measures announced today will ensure Canadians remain protected from COVID-19 as the economy reopens and international travel returns,” Fraser said.