Starting Friday, travellers to Canada who are considered fully vaccinated will no longer require COVID-19 tests in order to enter the country by air, land or water.
Federal officials announced the changes earlier this month, following warnings from the World Health Organization (WHO) about the rise in sequenced cases of the BA. 2, a subvariant of the Omicron strain that is seeing cases of COVID-19 rise globally, especially in parts of Asia.
The BA. 2 subvariant is driving cases here in Canada as well, plunging Quebec into a sixth wave of COVID-19 this week. COVID-19 continues to impact Ontario hospitals, that are reporting a rising number of employees testing positive for the virus in recent weeks.
“These increases are occurring despite reductions in testing in some countries, which means the cases we are seeing are just the tip of the iceberg,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Here’s what’s changing with Canada’s pandemic travel rules:
No more COVID-19 tests for fully vaccinated travellers
Starting April 1, fully vaccinated travellers will no longer be required to complete a pre-entry COVID test in order to enter Canada by air, land or water.
Prior to Friday’s change, all travellers, regardless of vaccination status, were required to show proof of a COVID-19 test when they arrived at the Canadian border. Test results could come in the form of a negative antigen test taken within 24 hours of arrival, a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival, or a positive COVID-19 test result taken at least 10 days — and no more than 180 days — prior to entry.
Although no longer required to provide a COVID test result, fully vaccinated travellers may still be selected for random testing upon entry, but no longer have to quarantine while waiting for their results.
Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated travellers will continue to be tested with COVID-19 molecular (PCR) tests upon arrival and will be tested again on day eight during their 14-day quarantine.
These changes take effect at all land borders and marine ports of entry.
Canada’s federal health minister Jean-Yves Duclos said that while some measures are being lifted, they are all subject to review and will be adjusted to match the epidemiological situation in Canada and abroad as it evolves.
Foreign nationals still need to be fully vaccinated in order to enter Canada
Unvaccinated travellers who are foreign nationals looking to gain entry into Canada for tourism, personal travel or even to attend school as an adult, are still not permitted entry, according to a test available on the government’s travel website. That includes U.S. citizens.
Unvaccinated travellers transiting through Canada on connection to another country may be granted entry depending on the requirements that apply for their specific situation.
Health Canada requires that all travellers including unvaccinated children wear a “well-constructed, well-fitting mask in public settings” for two weeks after arriving in Canada.
Although Ontario and other provinces have dropped their mask mandates, airports and rail terminals are federally-governed and passengers are still required to wear masks there.
There are limited exemptions to the mask mandates, such as for children under the age of 6, people who are unable to remove masks without assistance, or people who have medical exemptions.
Masks must be worn throughout the entire journey on planes and trains, except while eating, drinking or taking oral medication.
Travellers must continue providing required information on the ArriveCan website or app prior to entry, regardless of vaccination status.
Canadians, including crew and passengers, must still be fully vaccinated in order to board a cruise ship. Last week, federal officials the announced the restarting of cruise ship activity in Canada starting in April.
The chance of being infected with COVID-19 on cruise ships is very high, even if you’re fully vaccinated, reads the federal website on cruise ship travel.
Travel agents and local tour groups have reported a surge in flight bookings over the last few weeks.
“Lifting the pre-entry testing requirements for travellers to Canada will make it easier for Canadians to safely take advantage of emerging opportunities for personal and business travel, as Canada’s transportation system recovers from the pandemic,” said minister of transportation Omar Alghabra earlier this month.