Canada Scraps Pre-Entry COVID Test for Fully Vaccinated Travellers

Canada Scraps Pre-Entry COVID Test for Fully Vaccinated Travellers
Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa on Jan. 19, 2022. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Noé Chartier

The Canadian government announced on March 17 that fully vaccinated travellers coming to Canada will no longer be subjected to pre-entry COVID-19 testing beginning on April 1.

“I think it’s fair to say that we are now entering into a transition phase of this pandemic,” said Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos in a virtual press conference announcing the new border rules.

“As the weather warms, and people spend more time outside, we can expect to see transmission decline in the coming months, but we have to be prepared for a waning of collective and individual immunity.”

Duclos said fully vaccinated travellers may still be subjected to random testing on arrival and that non or partially-vaccinated travellers still need to be tested and submit to 14 days quarantine. All travellers must also still use the ArriveCan cellphone app.

The government had removed the mandatory on-arrival testing of fully-vaccinated travellers on Feb. 28.

“Let us remember that all measures are subject to review. We will continue to adjust them as the epidemiological situation here in Canada and abroad evolve,” Duclos said.

The press conference was also attended by Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, Tourism Minister Randy Boisonnault, and Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Howard Njoo.

Duclos was asked during the press conference why the vaccine mandate for air and train travel remains in place if two doses of vaccines have waning effectiveness against the virus, particularly the Omicron variant, and if the definition of “fully vaccinated” will subsequently be changed to three doses.

The Health Minister didn’t answer directly, mentioning in part the need to work with international partners on establishing rules, and that the measures are based on the current conditions which could change in the future.

“That all obviously depends on the evolution of possible things on which we have little evidence and absolutely no control—which is the arrival of possible new variants or future waves,” he said.

“All of these decisions today are based on the current measure of the situation, on prudence, on precaution, but also on the knowledge and the acknowledgement that these will continue to be addressed and possibly evolve.”

Canada is one of the only countries in the world that bars the unvaccinated from travelling by air, train, and some types of marine vessels.

Asked about whether the vaccine mandate would continue for public servants, Duclos said all measures will be reviewed, but “we need to have mandatory vaccination at present.”

Transport Minister Alghabra also addressed the issue of mandatory masking in transportation and said they will continue to rely on public health advice.

“We will adjust our measures as the situation evolves. Just like we will ease our measures, if things appear to be evolving in a negative direction, we will also have to adjust our measures accordingly,” he said.

Ottawa has moved slowly in lifting restrictions compared to the provinces. Many provinces have or are in the process of completely removing all COVID-19 restrictions, including vaccine passports.