On Tuesday, Canada was listed among 14 countries whose travellers will be allowed to enter Europe starting July 1.
The ease in travel restrictions applies to countries such as Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. The United States, however, joined other large countries like Brazil, Russia and India that didn’t make the cut due to a large number of COVID-19 infections.
The ease in restrictions now presents a way for Canadians to take a vacation or see their loved ones across the Atlantic Ocean.
Here’s what Canadians should know before deciding whether to travel.
Can Canadians leave and enter the country freely?
Despite there being a strict advisory to “avoid all non-essential travel” outside of the country, Canadians are essentially allowed to come and go as they wish.
However, all travellers will have to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon return.
The federal government’s advisory also maintains that “airspace closures and movement restrictions can occur without warning,” which could prevent Canadians from returning at any time.
“The Government of Canada is not planning additional facilitated flights to bring Canadians home during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the advisory states.
A statement from Global Affairs Canada has since said that travelling during the pandemic still remains the “responsibility of the individual.”
“Today’s announcement is only a recommendation from the European Council to the EU Member States,” said a GAC spokesperson. “As such, Canadians seeking to travel abroad are strongly advised to contact the nearest diplomatic office of the relevant country to check on restrictions and requirements.”
What are the rules after landing in Europe?
According to a press release issued by the EU on Tuesday, the decision to ease travel restrictions only comes as a recommendation, and is “not a legally binding instrument.”
This means that member states still get the final say on their own travel restrictions, but the 31 European countries have all agreed to begin lifting said restrictions starting Wednesday.
It’s recommended to check the travel restrictions first of any European country, as quarantine measures vary.
The list of countries allowed to enter the EU will also be updated every 14 days, with some being added or taken off depending on how well they keep their COVID-19 outbreaks under control.
What happens if a Canadian contracts COVID-19 abroad?
Similar to the travel rules in each European country, public health and treatment for the coronavirus will differ.
According to Canada’s travel and COVID-19 guideline, Canadians should avoid contact with others and follow local public health information on how to seek help should they contract the disease.
Canada’s guideline also recommends checking with insurance providers or making sure that you would be covered medically in the event you need treatment outside the country.
Canadians with coronavirus symptoms can still return to Canada by land, rail or sea but cannot fly back via air.
Canadians are also urged to contact Canada’s local consular office in the event they need help abroad.
To date, more than 104,000 Canadians have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus and a further 8,591 have died.
Worldwide, more than 10.3 million people have contracted the disease and over 507,000 have died, according to a running tally from John Hopkins University.
Canada extends its own travel ban
Canada on Tuesday also extended its ban on all non-essential international travellers who aren’t Canadian citizens, permanent residents or U.S. residents.
“To protect Canadians and to ease the potential burden non-essential travellers could place on our health care system and its frontline workers, the CBSA has implemented travel restrictions across all ports of entry in all modes of transportation – land, sea, air and rail. All travel of an optional or discretionary nature, including tourism and recreation, is covered by these measures,” read a statement from a Canadian Border Services Agency spokesperson.
“This order is an extension of the previous order and is in effect for ALL foreign nationals. There is no separate provision for EU travellers.”
The extension of the ban means that Canadians would technically be allowed to travel to the EU, whereas European residents would not be able to travel to Canada unless deemed essential.
A separate order banning all non-essential travel between Canada and the United States was also extended earlier this month until at least July 21.
Is it safe to fly on an airplane?
In a previous story with Global News, infection control epidemiologist Colin Furness advised against boarding a plane over how easily the virus could spread in close proximity to those on board.
The comment comes as Canadian airlines Air Canada and WestJet announced an ease of physical distancing rules on board their planes by freeing up their middle seats.
“I don’t want any Canadian taking that kind of risk,” said Furness.
— with files from the Associated Press, Andrew Russell and Hannah Jackson