OTTAWA — Anyone arriving in Canada starting Jan. 7 will need to have a negative COVID-19 test before boarding and may have to quarantine in a federal facility if they have inadequate isolation plans, the federal government says.
Flyers aged five and up will need have a negative PCR test within 72 hours of their scheduled departure and must show the results to their airline before they board their flight.
Travellers who receive a negative test result must still complete the mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Travellers will have to provide a quarantine plan for federal officials to review.
If officials aren’t satisfied, the government said people will be required to quarantine in a federal facility.
The statement on Thursday afternoon said Canadians vacationing abroad should immediately start arranging for a COVID-19 test to avoid delays in coming home.
The details arrive one day after cabinet ministers decided that Canada would join other countries in making a negative PCR test as a travel requirement.
A PCR test is designed to detect minute amounts of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, usually through a swab up the nose or in the mouth.
According to the statement, Health Minister Patty Hadju said that the new procedure was not a replacement for quarantine.
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“As the global situation evolves, we continue to work with our partners to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 into Canada at all international ports of entry,” said Hadju.
“The new testing requirement is an additional layer of protection that helps make Canada’s border measures among the strongest in the world.”
Transport Minister Marc Garneau had been in contact with airlines on Wednesday as the high-level details rolled out. On Thursday, the government said the Jan. 7 start date was designed to provide airlines with enough time to comply with the new rules.
The National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents the country’s largest airlines, warned earlier Thursday of major issues in Ottawa’s plans, including what options passengers have if their jurisdiction does not offer the kind of test the government accepts.
The new federal testing requirement will only apply for air travellers, but Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet argued it should apply at all ports of entry.
He also said the government should make sure that thousands of Canadians are reimbursed for travel plans that have been interrupted or cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.
It is essential that Canadians also understand that personal sacrifices are key to helping end the pandemic, Blanchet said in a statement.
In a statement Thursday, several Conservative shadow ministers criticized the new testing rules and questioned why the federal government did not implement post-arrival testing models already used by other G7 countries.
“The Liberals’ new bright idea is to have international airline workers with no ties to Canada act as COVID-19 screening agents,” read the statement.
“The lack of rationale, clarity and confusion created by the Liberal government’s half-baked announcement leaves airline workers and Canadians abroad in limbo.”
— With files from Global News