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COVID-19: return of the screening test on arrival in Canada for vaccinated travelers

COVID-19 screening tests are back for everyone at Canadian airports, as the federal government imposes them again for fully vaccinated travelers arriving from countries other than the United States. For fear of the Omicron variant, three other African countries are also blacklisted by Canada.

“Border measures can always change,” said federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos during a COVID-19 update in Ottawa on Tuesday.

Air passengers, even fully vaccinated, must also self-isolate until they test negative on arrival in Canada. They do not have to self-isolate in a federally authorized hotel while awaiting the result, nor do a full 14-day quarantine or even take an additional test on their eighth day in Canada, as for non- vaccinated.

Vaccinated travelers could so far simply present in the ArriveCan application their molecular test dated less than three days to enter the country, a step which is still required.

A changing situation

The federal government has imposed these new restrictions on vaccinated travelers to “evaluate” the changing situation since the appearance of the new Omicron variant. The rules remain unchanged for travelers from the United States for now, but Transport Minister Omar Alghabra has warned travelers that the rules may be tightened at any time.

Since Tuesday, it is mandatory to be fully vaccinated to be able to board a plane or a train from or to Canada. Authorities allow exceptions in rare cases, such as medical inability to get vaccinated. A negative PCR test is then accepted as an alternative.

In addition, the list of countries that cannot have been visited by a foreign national wishing to enter Canada is expanding. The country is restricting the arrival of travelers who are not Canadians or permanent residents and who have stayed in the past two weeks in Malawi, Egypt and Nigeria as of Wednesday. They are added to those, already banned from entering, having stayed in one of the seven countries announced on Friday: South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini and Namibia.

Canadian travelers or permanent residents returning from a trip to one of these countries will have to comply with strict measures, such as a series of screening tests (first day and 8and day after arrival), isolation in a government-sanctioned hotel until they test negative first, and then spend the rest of their quarantine at home.

Even before Ottawa’s announcement, New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh lamented that travel restrictions were once again being tightened for specific countries. In his opinion, “it’s not something that works [de] effective way to protect the public. It would be better, according to Mr. Singh, to lift the patents of pharmaceutical companies in order to allow countries around the world, including developing countries, to create their own vaccines.

Third dose

Finally, the federal ministers asked the experts mandated to advise the government on vaccines to decide on the question of the usefulness of providing a third dose of vaccine against COVID-19 for all.

“The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is being asked to quickly provide the Canadian government with updated guidelines on the usefulness of booster doses in the context of the appearance of the Omicron variant,” said Minister Duclos on Tuesday.

The Omicron variant, described as “worrying” by the World Health Organization, was detected for the first time in South Africa on November 24. This variant has infected at least six people in Canada, federal public health officials confirmed on Tuesday: four people in Ontario, one in Quebec and one last detected Tuesday in Alberta.

With The Canadian Press

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