PCR testing is no longer required for short trips

TORONTO – As of November 30, fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents returning home after short trips to the United States and abroad will no longer have to submit evidence of a negative molecular test, such as a test of PCR.

The federal government has announced that it will raise the requirement for molecular testing for travelers who have received a full batch of COVID-19 vaccines when they return to Canada after less than 72 hours.

However, the molecular test requirement will still be required for trips abroad lasting more than 72 hours.

“Upcoming changes in testing and entry requirements at the Canadian border reflect the next stage of our government’s approach as we align with improving vaccination rates both here in Canada and throughout the world. world, ”Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said during the briefing.

While easing travel restrictions, Duclos warned that Canadians cannot “lower their guard” and said everyone “must work hard to protect the gains we have made” against COVID-19.

In addition to the change in re-entry tests, the federal government announced that travelers who have received COVID-19 Sinopharm, Sinovac and Covaxin vaccines will be considered fully vaccinated for travel purposes at the end of the month, as will COVID- 19. vaccines approved for use by the World Health Organization.

Duclos noted that officials are monitoring the situation at the border “closely” and will assess these measures and recommend “necessary adjustments as needed.”

Public Security Minister Marco Mendicino said during the briefing on Friday that travelers are still required to enter their travel information into the ArriveCAN app and will be responsible for “keeping track” of their 72-hour window to show airlines, railway companies and government officials “as required”.

“Remember that providing false information to a Canadian government official on entry into Canada is a felony and can lead to severe penalties or even criminal charges,” he said.

The federal government lifted the global warning urging Canadians to avoid non-essential travel abroad in October, but continues to discourage cruise travel.

The U.S. government reopened its land border to non-essential Canadian travelers on November 8, while air travel to the U.S. has been allowed under certain conditions.

Previous border measures required that all travelers entering Canada, regardless of vaccination status, submit a test for a negative COVID-19 molecular test performed within 72 hours of crossing the land border or leaving. of the flight.

For trips of less than 72 hours, travelers have been able to take a COVID-19 test in Canada before departure in accordance with current rules, and then show the results of Canadians on their return.

These rules remain in effect until November 30.

Molecular testing can cost between $ 150 and $ 300. Antigen testing, which usually only costs between $ 40 and $ 60, is not accepted to enter Canada.

Pressure on the federal government has increased from politicians and tourism companies on both sides of the Canadian-U.S. border to lift the PCR test entry requirement for short trips, arguing that the tests faces can deter travel between the two countries.

Critics have also called for the test requirement for fully vaccinated tourists to be completely removed, but Canada is expected to take a more gradual approach to alleviating some of the measures related to the border pandemic.

ENTRY TESTS ARE STILL OBLIGATIONS FOR AMERICANS

Canada opened its borders in October to non-essential international travelers who have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine approved by Health Canada, and fully vaccinated Americans have been able to cross the border into Canada since in August, with certain entry conditions.

Canada’s director of public health, Dr. Theresa Tam, said the federal government is taking a “gradual approach” when it comes to allowing fully vaccinated tourists into the country without a negative molecular test.

Tam said Friday that allowing Canadian travelers to re-enter without the PCR test on short trips will help “mitigate the risk” of increasing COVID-19 cases from abroad. He added that the discrepancy between Canadian and American travelers is more a reflection of “operational considerations” at the moment.

Tam said public health authorities can better track Canadian citizens and permanent residents on their return to Canada than U.S. visitors.

However, Americans may soon be next.

New York Congressman Brian Higgins told CTV’s Power Play on Thursday that Canada plans to remove the travel requirements from the PCR test for fully vaccinated travelers in three phases: “First Canadians, Americans and all the others “.

Duclos said the federal government will “re-evaluate entry requirements for U.S. citizens coming to Canada” and provide an update “at a later date.”

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce quickly criticized the decision, calling Ottawa’s change in testing requirements a “one-way door to the border.”

“As the holiday shopping season begins, the most important period for the retail sector, Ottawa is facilitating the cross-border purchase of Canadians, while maintaining the punitive restrictions that discourage fully vaccinated Americans from vacationing or shopping in Canada.” House Speaker and CEO Perrin Beatty said in a statement Friday.

“The 72-hour cut is also arbitrary. It’s hard to understand how low-risk travelers are for 72 hours, but they become a danger at 73 hours.”

The National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC), which represents Canada’s largest airlines, including Air Canada and WestJet, also criticized the changes, saying they didn’t go far enough.

President and CEO Mike McNaney said in a statement Friday that pre-departure PCR testing should be lifted for all fully vaccinated passengers and says the federal government is taking a “fragmentary approach.” “focusing only on short trips and Canadian travelers.

“Pre-departure testing is simply no longer justified for fully vaccinated travelers,” McNaney said. “It is not the duration of the trip or the nationality of the passenger that is relevant, but the vaccination status of the passenger which is key.”

VACCINE EXEMPTIONS ENDING THE NEW YEAR

The federal government said Friday it will require certain groups of travelers, who are currently exempt from entry requirements, to be fully vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine approved by Health Canada in order to enter the country.

“Given the increased availability of these vaccines in many parts of the world, we will also further reduce the number of entry exemptions available 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 foreign nationals will only be able to enter Canada with “limited exceptions,” which apply to certain groups, such as agricultural and food processing workers. , members of the marine crew and new permanent residents. , resettling refugees and those entering the country for “compassionate reasons.”

However, those who are exempt will still have to meet the entry requirements, including molecular testing and mandatory quarantine.

Unvaccinated foreigners who are not exempt will be “prohibited from entering Canada.”

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said in a statement on Friday that he announced changes requiring foreigners to be fully vaccinated will add “another important layer of protection at the border.”

“Many foreign nationals and international students arriving in Canada are already fully vaccinated, and the measures announced today will help ensure that Canadians remain protected from COVID-19 as the economy reopens and international travel returns,” he said. dir Fraser.

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