Canada will require COVID-19 testing for flights from China as virus surges

Click to play video: 'U.S. joins growing list of countries renewing COVID-19 restrictions for Chinese travellers'
U.S. joins growing list of countries renewing COVID-19 restrictions for Chinese travellers
The U.S. has joined a growing list of nations introducing new COVID-19 testing requirements for travellers arriving from China, a country now grappling with an alarming surge of infections after relaxing many of its 'zero-COVID' regulations. As Touria Izri explains, there are now questions over whether Canada will impose travel rules of its own, amid fears new variants of the virus could emerge – Dec 29, 2022

The federal government will require COVID-19 testing for travellers coming into Canada from China, Hong Kong and Macau.

Beginning on Jan. 5, air travellers arriving in Canada from flights originating from the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong or Macau that are two years of age and older will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test before boarding the aircraft to Canada, according to the government.

The test must be taken no more than two days before departure.

“In response to the surge of COVID-19 in the People’s Republic of China and given the limited epidemiological and viral genomic sequence data available on these cases, the Government of Canada intends to put in place certain temporary health measures for air travellers entering Canada from China,” the government said in a release Saturday.

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Passengers who have tested positive more than 10 days before their flight, but no more than 90 days, can provide their airline with the documentation of their prior positive, in place of a negative test, the government said.

Click to play video: 'China’s hospitals, funeral homes slammed as COVID-19 spreads unchecked'
China’s hospitals, funeral homes slammed as COVID-19 spreads unchecked

The “temporary” measures are planned to be in place for 30 days and then reassessed.

“Our actions continue to be guided by prudence and we will not hesitate to adjust measures to protect the health and safety of Canadians,” said Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos in a statement.

When arriving at Canadian airports’ Primary Inspection Kiosks and eGates, travellers will also be asked if they have travelled to China, Hong Kong or Macau in the last 10 days.

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If a traveller has, officers with Canada’s Border Services Agency will provide them with additional public health information and what to do if they develop symptoms of the virus.

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This only applies to air travellers, not those arriving by land.

Additionally, Canada’s public health agency is putting in place a pilot project in place on wastewater testing with Vancouver International Airport. It is also expanding an existing project with Toronto Pearson International Airport.

These projects are to assess the COVID-19 prevalence from various regions across the world, the government said.

The samples are sequenced to monitor for novel variants of concern.

“The safety of travellers and the transportation industry remain top priorities. Our Government continues to take unprecedented action to protect the health and safety of Canadians by introducing measures to prevent further introduction and transmission of COVID-19 into Canada,” Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said.

Click to play video: 'China to end COVID-19 restrictions for foreign arrivals as infections spike'
China to end COVID-19 restrictions for foreign arrivals as infections spike

The measures follow similar implemented rules from other countries, including the U.S. and Japan, as China grapples with a surge of the virus.

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China recently reversed public health measures under its “zero-COVID” strategy that kept the country in isolation for nearly three years and announced this week plans to reissue passports and visas for overseas trips.

This could send many Chinese abroad for the Lunar New Year holiday in January, raising concerns about possible virus spread and the risk of mutations to the virus amid rapid spread.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Friday said China continues to monitor the virus mutations and share information, and stressed the importance of a science-based approach.

Some European nations have tightened COVID rules for flights from China. On Friday, authorities in France, Spain and England said tougher measures for passengers arriving from China will be implemented.

France’s government is requiring negative COVID-19 tests from travellers coming from China and is urging French citizens to avoid nonessential travel to the country. France is also reintroducing mask requirements on flights from China to France.

French health authorities will carry out random PCR tests at airports on passengers arriving from China to identify potential new coronavirus variants. The new rules take effect on Sunday, but officials said it would be a few days before they are fully in place.

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The U.K. government recently announced that anyone travelling to England on direct flights from China would be required to take a pre-departure test from Jan. 5.

Click to play video: 'China opens up international travel as COVID-19 cases surge'
China opens up international travel as COVID-19 cases surge

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said that the U.K. was taking a “balanced and precautionary approach.” He described the measures as “temporary” while officials assess COVID-19 statistics.

Spain’s government said it would require all air passengers coming from China to have negative tests or proof of vaccination.

Health Minister Carolina Darias told reporters that Spain would be pushing for similar measures at a European level following the surge of cases in China. She said coronavirus health controls would be stepped up at Spanish airports.

Darias didn’t specify when the new requirement would take effect.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said the body needs more information on the severity of the outbreak in China.

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“In the absence of comprehensive information from China, it is understandable that countries around the world are acting in ways that they believe may protect their populations,” he said Friday on Twitter.

“In order to make a comprehensive risk assessment of the COVID-19 situation on the ground in China, WHO needs more detailed information.”

— With files from The Associated Press

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