International travellers who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will once again be allowed onto Canadian soil this week as eased travel restrictions go into effect.
At 12:01 a.m. Sept. 7, all foreign nationals who have been jabbed with a vaccine authorized for use by Health Canada will be allowed into the country for non-essential purposes, and won’t need to quarantine for 14 days. To date, Canada has approved vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca.
Canadian airports are advising travellers to arrive earlier and prepare for longer wait times, in anticipation of the new rules and additional public safety precautions.
Toronto Pearson International Airport released a statement on Monday asking all departing domestic passengers to arrive at least an hour and a half ahead of their flights, and for international passengers to arrive at least three hours in advance. They added the arrivals process for international travellers “could take three hours or longer.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Montreal-Trudeau International Airport told Global News that there have already been “longer than usual wait times” at the border in order for the airport to meet COVID-19 requirements for travellers.
The move to ease restrictions for international travellers, first announced in July, follows Canada’s earlier decision in August to allow fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents into the country, and put an end to the federal government’s quarantine hotels.
The U.S. has yet to reciprocate, as fully vaccinated Canadians are still not permitted to cross land borders. Air, sea and rail travellers are exempt. The U.S. State Department’s travel advisory for Canada currently stands at Level 3: “Reconsider Travel,” citing a “high level of COVID-19.”
Meanwhile, Canada still has a ban on direct flights from India in place until Sept. 21. Travellers coming from the country through an indirect route are still required to obtain a valid pre-departure COVID-19 molecular test from a country other than India before coming to Canada.
Still, Canada’s eased restrictions mark a significant shift for the federal government, which has barred non-essential travel for non-citizens throughout much of the pandemic. Here’s what you need to know.
What are the new rules?
As of Tuesday, the federal government says foreign travellers who are fully vaccinated will be free to come to Canada as long as they are asymptomatic, have received either two doses of an accepted COVID-19 vaccine or a combination of accepted vaccines at least 14 days before entering the country and meet other pre-entry requirements.
Before boarding, anyone at least five years of age and up — even if they are fully vaccinated — will be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test that was taken within 72 hours before boarding a plane. Antigen tests don’t count.
They will also have to upload their proof of vaccination into the ArriveCAN app either in English or in French before takeoff or they will not be allowed to board.
The new rules exempt travellers from the mandatory 14-day quarantine once they have touched down in Canada, but selected foreign nationals may be subject to testing upon arrival.
Nobody partially vaccinated will be exempt from the new travel restrictions, and neither will travellers who have received one dose and recovered from COVID-19.
Travelling with unvaccinated children
The federal government said on its website that unvaccinated children under the age of 12 flying with their parents, step-parents, guardians or tutors who are fully vaccinated will also be exempt from the 14-day quarantine, but will still have to meet all testing requirements as well as an additional test after eight days.
Anyone travelling with kids under the age of 18 will be required to include them in their ArriveCAN submission, regardless of whether or not they’ve been vaccinated.
“They will be asked about their vaccination status,” a spokesperson for Health Canada said in an emailed statement to Global News. “However, as long as all other travellers in the submission are fully vaccinated, ArriveCAN will issue a receipt that is required for travel.”
Children between the ages of 12 and 17 will still have to follow all testing and quarantine requirements, even if they are accompanied by adults who have been fully vaccinated.
Cases rising in Canada
The move to reopen Canada’s borders comes amid troubling news from the country’s top public health official, who said last week that the window to avoid a devastating fourth wave was closing quickly.
“The moment you get people back indoors to access all those important, essential things that we need to do, we will see accelerations,” Dr. Theresa Tam said Friday as she released new federal modelling that showed daily COVID-19 cases in Canada could reach 15,000 per day, unless more people get vaccinated.
Despite rising cases of COVID-19, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who is currently seeking re-election, said Monday that Canadians and their families who have chosen to get vaccinated “deserve to get back to normal as quickly as possible.”
Trudeau said a recovering economy means “welcoming in business travellers and tourists from places around the world as long as they are vaccinated,” adding, “that’s not where the risks are right now.”
To date, Health Canada says more than 76 per cent of Canadians aged 12 years old and up are fully vaccinated, while more than 83 per cent have received a first dose.
— with files from the Canadian Press