Crossing the Canadian border is about to get easier for fully vaccinated travelers.
Starting Feb. 28 at 12:01 a.m. ET, vaccinated visitors will be able to enter with a negative rapid antigen test instead of a molecular PCR test. The change comes as daily COVID-19 cases within the country continue to drop following an omicron-driven spike earlier this year.
Previously, Canada required all travelers 5 and older arriving by land or air to show a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before arrival, regardless of vaccination status.
PCR tests will still be accepted. If a traveler chooses to take a rapid antigen test pre-departure, it must be authorized by the country in which it was purchased and administered by a lab, healthcare entity or telehealth service. The test must also be administered no more than 24 hours before a scheduled flight or arrival at the land border.
Alternatively, travelers can enter the country if they can show proof of a previous COVID-19 infection with a positive molecular test taken at least 10 days but no more than 180 days before arrival.
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Canada will also resume the random testing surveillance program in place before the omicron surge. Vaccinated travelers only need to take a post-arrival PCR test if they are randomly selected for this program. They will not need to quarantine while awaiting test results.
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A booster shot is not required for entry. Travelers who have completed a one- or two-dose vaccination series, with the final dose completed at least 15 days before entry, will be considered fully vaccinated.
Unvaccinated travelers are only allowed entry under certain circumstances; those who can visit will continue to be tested after arrival and will need to quarantine 14 days.
‘Our fight with the virus is not over’
Canada is also easing its travel guidance for citizens, and now urges citizens to “exercise caution” while traveling abroad instead of discouraging all nonessential travel.
Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced the rule changes Tuesday, noting that the country is in a “much better position” than it was in March 2020.
“It is time to adjust our approach,” he said. “I know many of us are looking forward to dealing with fewer restrictions. However, we must continue to exercise prudence. Let me be clear: our fight with the virus is not over.”
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The updated travel restrictions come after a weeklong “Freedom Convoy” trucker protest in Canada that shut down the busiest border crossing to the U.S., with protesters opposing a mandate requiring drivers entering Canada to be fully vaccinated or face testing and quarantine requirements.
Duclos noted that if the epidemiological situation continues to improve, hospitalization rates diminish and Canadians continue to get booster shots, more travel restrictions could be lifted “in the coming weeks.”
“If the situation warrants, the testing exemption for short trips – under 72 hours for instance – could be reinstated,” he said. “Eventually, further testing requirements could be dropped.”
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