Travellers to Canada will soon need negative COVID-19 test before boarding
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.
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.
Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said in a statement she is deeply concerned that some Canadians are still travelling for non-essential reasons despite the advice to avoid doing so.
"I am asking Canadians to reassess any travel plans," she said.
Some haven't, including politicians who now find themselves in hot water.
Among them is Rod Phillips, who resigned as Ontario's finance minister shortly after returning to home Thursday morning from a two-week Caribbean vacation after the provincial government urged against non-essential travel.
Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner called Phillips' decision dumb in a video posted late Wednesday. Phillips would use the same word when he landed at Toronto's Pearson International Airport.
Rempel Garner's husband lives in Oklahoma. In the video she talked about not being able to see him or her mother-in-law who has cancer, noting at one point, "Thanks, Rod. I don't get to see my mother-in-law now because there'll be a witch-hunt if I go see my family."
Canada's two largest provinces on Thursday reported new record highs of COVID-19 cases.
Ontario reported 3,328 new cases and 56 more deaths linked to the virus, matching the highest death toll from the first wave.
In Quebec, there were 2,819 new cases and 62 deaths. The province also said 3,942 doses of vaccine were administered on Wednesday, for a total of 29,250.
Tam said several people have tested positive in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec with the novel coronavirus variant identified in the U.K.
She expected that other variants of concern will likely be found in Canada as monitoring continues.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 31, 2020.
- With files from Jon Victor in Montreal