Updated: Mar 27, 2022
Canada took another major step in its journey away from emergency travel restrictions last week with the announcement that vaccinated travellers would no longer be required to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test before entering the country. The new rules, which will go into effect on 1 April, mean that anyone wishing to visit Canada will be able to do so without a pre-flight test as long as they have received a full dose of one of the eight vaccines recognised by the Canadian government. Some vaccinated travellers will still receive random post-arrival screening, but do not need to quarantine while waiting for the results of this test.
The Minister of Health, Jean-Yves Duclos, announced the change to travel restrictions on 17 March. Duclos stated that changing conditions in Canada, including high levels of vaccination, more treatments for Covid-19, and high levels of available hospital capacity, meant that previous restrictions were no longer necessary. Duclos promised to consider further easing of travel restrictions in the future as the situation continues to improve, but emphasised that these changes would only be made if they were consistent with public safety.
Travellers must upload their proof of vaccination to the ArriveCAN app up to 72 hours prior to their arrival in Canada. The eight vaccines approved by the Canadian government are the AstraZeneca (also called COVISHIELD), Bharat Biotech, Janssen (or Johnson & Johnson), Moderna, Novavax, Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinopharm BIBP and Sinovac vaccines. In order to be classed as fully vaccinated, a traveller must have received the recommended number of doses for the vaccine they received, which can vary from vaccine to vaccine.
Under the current rules, which will remain in force throughout March, even vaccinated travellers must provide evidence of a negative Covid test prior to their flights. This could take the form of a molecular test administered up to 72 hours prior to the flight, a rapid antigen test from the previous day, or a positive test from more than 10 but fewer than 180 days earlier.
This change to the testing requirements is just the latest in a series of changes that have made it easier for travellers to enter Canada. For example, all travellers used to be subject to mandatory screening on arrival in Canada. This system has now been replaced with random screening for vaccinated travellers. Like these other new changes, this has the effect of making travel quicker and easier for those who have been fully vaccinated.
Increasing the ease of travel should help reinvigorate Canada's tourism and travel industries, which suffered as a result of the suspension of international flights and closed border with the United States. This could also help to change the pattern of Canadian immigration. During the pandemic, the government has sought to meet its immigration targets by shifting the focus of its efforts from applicants outside Canada to those, such as applicants within the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) already likely to be in the country. However, as travel finally becomes more accessible to new arrivals from around the world, a shift back to something more like a pre-pandemic distribution is likely.
Travellers who haven't yet completed their vaccinations are subject to many more restrictions than those who have. The requirement to produce a negative test before flying still applies to them. In addition, they must go into quarantine for 14 days after arriving in Canada and take two post-arrival Covid tests, one at arrival and one on the eighth day of quarantine. Further, many unvaccinated travellers may not be permitted to enter Canada at all. The vaccination requirement is waived only in some cases, such as workers in essential businesses, Ukrainian nationals, or people under the age of 18 entering the country to study or visit family. For many travellers, proof of vaccination will be required to enter Canada.
These changes to Canada's testing requirements for vaccinated travellers will make it easier for many travellers to enter the country. Not only do they simplify the travel process for those who would previously have planned to travel to Canada, they also reduce barriers to travel, making a trip to Canada more appealing to those wouldn't previously have planned on taking one.