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Wednesday,  April 17, 2024 5:41 PM 

Vaxxed travellers can opt for antigen starting Feb. 28; advisory adjusted to Level 2; ban on int’l flights lifted at airports

Vaxxed travellers can opt for antigen starting Feb. 28; advisory adjusted to Level 2; ban on int’l flights lifted at airports
From left: Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos; Transport Minister Omar Alghabra; Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino on Feb. 15, 2022.
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

As of February 28, at 12:01 a.m. (EST), fully vaccinated Canadians who travel abroad will no longer have to take a molecular (PCR) test to return home, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos confirmed on Tuesday (Feb. 15).

Speaking at a press conference, Minister Duclos indicated that travellers entering Canada will still be required to take a pre-arrival test, but instead can opt for a rapid antigen test, which is cheaper than PCR tests and can produce results within 15 to 30 minutes (whereas PCR can take up to 48 hours or longer).

Travellers will have to take their antigen test no more than 24 hours before their scheduled flight or arrival at border.

"Taking a rapid antigen test at home is not sufficient to meet the pre-entry requirement – it must be authorized by the country in which it was purchased and must be administered by a laboratory, healthcare entity or telehealth service," the government notes on its website

Travellers can still use PCR tests, if they like, which in this case the 72-hour rule still applies. 

To prove a previous COVID-19 infection, the federal government will only accept molecular test results taken at least 10 calendar days, and no more than 180 days, before entering Canada.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos on Feb. 15, 2022.

In addition, unvaccinated children under 12 years of age returning to Canada will no longer have to isolate for 14 days from places like schools or daycares. They will also no longer be subject to testing.

“These changes are possible not only because we have past the peak of Omicron, but because Canadians across the country have listened to the science and to experts, followed public health measures and have taken steps to protect themselves, their families and their communities,” Minister Duclos said.

Unvaccinated travellers will still be required to test on arrival, on day eight and quarantine for 14 days, Minister Duclos noted.

Tuesday's announcement "does not change anything" when it comes to the Government of Canada's approach to vaccinations, Duclos later added. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hinted at this last week, telling reporters that Canada's requirement for people to be fully vaccinated to board a plane or train were not among the changes being announced this week. 

“I think it’s extremely important to emphasize that all the decisions we take will be based in science and indeed will be focused on Canadians getting their lives back to normal,” Trudeau said on Friday (Feb. 11). 

Travel advisory adjusted

Furthermore, Canada is adjusting its Travel Health Notice from a Level 3 to Level 2 advisory.

This means the government will no longer recommend that Canadians avoid all travel for non-essential purposes.

“Canadians should still exercise caution when travelling abroad. There is still the real risk of becoming sick or stranded while abroad or having to extend their trip or find themselves needing medical assistance should they test positive,” Minister Duclos said.

The federal government's randomized testing program, which was ramped up in December in response to the arrival of the Omicron variant, will remain in effect at airports.

However, travellers, if randomly selected for a PCR test, will no longer have to quarantine while awaiting results, Minister Duclos said.

The Health Minister called the new border measures “transitionary,” and not permanent, as the government plans to reassess them in the following weeks and months.

Duclos added that the previously-allowed testing exemption for short trips that are 72 hours or less “could also be reinstated,” and eventually, further testing requirements could be dropped.

“If the epidemiological situation continues to improve, hospitalizations continue to diminish and if Canadians continue to get their booster shots, further easing of travel restrictions could be considered in the coming weeks,” Duclos said.

Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino added that all fully-vaccinated travellers, regardless of how long they were away from Canada, must continue to use the ArriveCAN app for entry into Canada.

This means travellers are still required to submit mandatory information via ArriveCAN (through the mobile app or website), including proof of vaccination and a quarantine plan prior to arriving in Canada.

“A great day for Canadian aviation"

Tuesday was also “a great day for Canadian aviation,” Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said

Minister Alghabra announced that as of Feb. 28, the ban on international flights at all remaining airports that normally receive international flights will be lifted.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra on Feb. 15, 2022.

(Currently, 18 Canadian airports are allowed to accept international flights).

“This is great news for communities like Windsor, London, Fort McMurray, Moncton and many others,” Minister Alghabra said. “By receiving international flights this will support local tourism, create good jobs and grow our economy.”

Minister Alghabra also touched on Canada’s cruise sector, which has be subject to strict advisories and rules from the very beginning of the pandemic.

“I know how important the cruise season is to the tourism industry in many communities like Victoria and Quebec City,” Minister Alghabra said.

“We will have more to say, very soon, about how testing for travellers arriving at Canadian ports will work – in time for the cruise ship season this spring.”

"Travel is safe"

Randy Boissonnault, Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance, stated that the Government of Canada is "committed to a safe reopening." 

"One that provides predictability, flexibility and shows the world that Canada is one of the safest places to travel," Boissonnault said in a statement. "Travel is safe and will continue to be safe in Canada." 

"Let me be clear that the Canadian economy will not fully recover until our tourism sector recovers and today's measures will help us safely welcome visitors to Canada.”

Click here for an official overview of the Government of Canada's new border measures. 

This is a developing story. 

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