Canada to Lift COVID-19 Testing Requirement for Vaccinated Travelers

March 18, 2022 by Reece Nations
Canada to Lift COVID-19 Testing Requirement for Vaccinated Travelers
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stands and applauds with members of parliament following an address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to parliament, Tuesday, March 15, 2022 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP)

OTTAWA, Ont. — Canadian Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced on Thursday that the country would no longer require fully vaccinated travelers to show a negative coronavirus test prior to entering the country starting April 1.

Duclos’ announcement comes as Canadian COVID-19 cases begin to settle after a record-high volume was experienced in January of this year, according to data from Johns Hopkins. Canada had previously closed its borders to nonessential travel in March 2020 before easing travel restrictions in Aug. 2021, allowing those who could furnish a negative molecular coronavirus test to enter the country.

The country’s definition of “fully vaccinated” describes those who have had either two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or a single dose of Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine at least 14 days before their arrival. The policy doesn’t mention the publicly available booster doses.

“As we have said for months, safety first then travel,” Alexandra Bernier, director of communications for the Office of the Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance, told The Well News.

“Thanks to high vaccination rates and the increasing availability of rapid tests and treatments we are now able to move towards a more long-term approach to managing COVID-19. With this decision, guided by science and prudence, Canada’s world-class tourism sector is ready to welcome back the world.”

Since Feb. 2021, Canada has allowed travelers to submit negative rapid antigen tests for entry. Travelers who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated are only allowed to enter the country under certain circumstances and will need to test for COVID-19 before and after their arrival, according to the Canadian government.

Unvaccinated travelers are required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Canada, and must quarantine for an additional 10 days should they receive a positive result from the required testing.

Vaccinated travelers are only required to be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival if they are selected through Canada’s random testing surveillance program.

“People are eager to travel and reconnect with their loved ones, and the end of pre-departure testing will provide travelers with more certainty, allowing them to plan their next trip with more confidence and without the worry of incurring additional costs,” David Rheault, Air Canada’s vice president of government and community relations, said in a written statement.

“Canada now joins other countries around the world in reopening and we look ahead to the summer travel season. The removal of pre-departure testing requirements will continue to accelerate and stimulate the recovery of Canada’s travel and tourism industry, which we are committed to help rebuild through the restoration of our global network.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still warning travelers to avoid Canada due to its “very high” levels of COVID-19 and recommends anyone who must travel to Canada be up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines before departure.

Susan Hassig, associate professor of Tulane University’s epidemiology program, told The Well News that the timing of Canada’s policy change is concerning as the policy has served the country well thus far. Additionally, she said it could be problematic to reinstate the policy later on as a sub-variant of omicron still continues to demonstrate high transmissibility around the globe.

“I do think that it’s unfortunate that so many places, including in the U.S., have made the decisions that they have on such a large scale because it’s very clear that the virus is continuing to evolve,” Hassig told The Well News.

“And I was particularly surprised because Canada has been so careful about making adjustments to their policies that they have chosen at this moment to drop the pre-departure negative test component for travelers because right now we’re seeing increases in Europe and the Asia Pacific region as well as in many countries in Africa.”

Although individuals who choose to travel domestically and internationally can protect themselves through various mitigation steps like social distancing and wearing masks, Hassig said a collective response is still necessary to prevent the spread of a pathogen like COVID-19. She emphasized that merely putting the onus on individuals to protect themselves is not going to be a successful long-term strategy.

Implementing public health policies has always been a delicate balancing act of making judgment calls, she said.

While the vaccines have been shown to prevent severe illness and hospitalization, there is still discontinuity between what is defined as fully vaccinated and the kinds of guidance and recommendations coming from different segments of health authorities in countries around the world.

“The unfortunate reality is — I do think that there have been a lot of decisions made that are not entirely based on what public health would tell us, and that is likely [to continue] in the next six months,” Hassig said.

Reece can be reached at [email protected].

 

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