At midnight on 18 March 2020, Canada closed its borders to the world and proceeded to implement some of the tightest restrictions in North America to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, 16 months later, Canada is ready to gradually loosen the reins.
The land of the Maple Leaf today announced a raft of changes that will affect Canadian airports, Canadian travelers (both vaccinated and unvaccinated), US citizens and US permanent residents.
Notably, in what will doubtlessly be positive news for the beleaguered Canadian aviation industry, Canada on 9 August will welcome fully vaccinated US citizens and residents to its shores for nonessential purposes, and in time the rest of the vaccinated world.
Let’s look at what these changes entail.
Under current restrictions, only four Canadian airports are allowed to accept international arrivals (Calgary, Montréal-Trudeau, Toronto Pearson, and Vancouver). On 9 August, five more Canadian airports will be added to the list:
- Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport (YQB)
- Ottawa International Airport (YOW)
- Halifax Stanfield International Airport (YHZ)
- Edmonton International Airport (YEG)
- Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport (YWG).
Moreover, the Canadian government will stop requiring that passengers and airport workers submit to pre-departure temperature screenings, a major plus for those individuals who have higher temperatures even when not fighting a viral infection.
No more government hotels and more leeway for unvaccinated Canadians
Since 5 July, fully vaccinated Canadian citizens and permanent residents flying into Canada have been allowed to skip the mandatory three-day stay at a government-approved quarantine hotel, and forgo quarantine at their homes providing they test negative for COVID-19.
From 9 August, nobody flying into Canada will be forced to stay at a government-approved hotel.
Unvaccinated Canadian citizens and permanent residents must still submit to a COVID-19 molecular test (commonly known as PCR) within 72 hours before they travel, as well as on day 1 and day 8 after returning to Canada. But they can complete their 14-day quarantine at home.
The ability to forgo a costly three-day government hotel stay will come as a huge relief to those Canadians who are unable to receive the vaccine due to allergies or other medical conditions.
Intriguingly, individuals who cannot be fully vaccinated due to “a health condition for which vaccination is contraindicated” may also qualify for the same quarantine and testing requirements available to fully vaccinated travellers, according to the Canadian government’s messaging. In these instances, the individuals must follow what is being called “a modified quarantine”. The government said more details will be available in the coming days.
Also on 9 August, children under 12 years old who are unvaccinated will be exempt from quarantining at home on arriving into Canada. However, they will still face certain restrictions. For instance, they may run errands with their parents during their first two weeks back in the country but will not be allowed to attend large gatherings such as daycare and day camps.
Unvaccinated children will still be subjected to the day 1 and day 8 testing requirements.
The government warned that individual provinces and territories may have more stringent rules around people who have recently returned from travel.
All Canadian travelers, including the fully vaccinated, must submit to a COVID-19 test — and show a negative result — within 72 hours before leaving the country. This information must be uploaded to the ArriveCan app or web portal. Airlines will be responsible for checking travellers’ information via the app prior to departure.
While fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents and Americans from 9 August will not have to test again before entering Canada, the government said they could be subjected to random testing on arrival. Vaccinated individuals who are randomly selected by the government will need to complete a day 1 COVID-19 test. And, as mentioned, all unvaccinated Canadians will still have to submit to the day 1 and day 8 test while quarantining at home.
Unvaccinated Americans are not welcome in Canada at this time.
Canadian Minister of Health Patty Hajdu said today that the shift to random testing of vaccinated travelers “allows us to focus efforts on unvaccinated travelers while still keeping track of new variants”.
Moreover, any Canadian citizens and permanent residents (whether vaccinated or unvaccinated) who are travelling to the United States for less than 72 hours will see their pre-departure COVID-19 test remain effective for the full 72 hours. In short, they will not need to test again.
That means that, for instance, travelers who take a day trip over the border or an overnight stay will not incur the cost of a COVID-19 test as their test would be obtained in Canada under Canada’s universal, publicly-funded healthcare system.
Vaccinated Americans and a spotlight on ArriveCan
US citizens and permanent residents will only be allowed to cross land borders or fly into one of the nine Canadian airports accepting arrivals by submitting their vaccination and pre-departure COVID-19 test results via the ArriveCan app or web portal.
At this time Canada is only recognizing four vaccines as valid for entry into the country: Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca/Covishield, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson).
Unvaccinated children under the age of 12, or unvaccinated dependent children (due to a mental or physical condition) who are US citizens or permanent residents will be welcome in Canada, as long as they are accompanied by a fully vaccinated parent, step-parent, guardian or tutor who either has a right to enter Canada (e.g. Canadian citizens and permanent residents), said the Canadian government.
But it warned that: “All travellers must still present a suitable quarantine plan, and be prepared to quarantine, should they not meet all of the conditions required to be exempt from quarantine.”
The rest of the world
Canada has extended the ban on direct flights from India until 21 August and restrictions concerning indirect flights from India are still in effect. This means that anyone flying from India to Canada via a third party country must obtain a negative COVID-19 test in that intermediate country before departing for Canada.
On 7 September, providing that Canada’s COVID-19 epidemiology remains favourable, the government said it “intends to open Canada’s borders for discretionary travel by travellers from any country who have been fully vaccinated with Government of Canada-accepted vaccines at least 14 days prior to entering Canada and who meet specific entry requirements”.
It added that border measures remain subject to change as the epidemiological situation evolves.
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Featured image credited to Becca Alkema