Ottawa dropping pre-arrival PCR test for fully vaccinated Canadian travellers on March 1: sources

February 15, 2022 by No Comments

Effective March 1, fully vaccinated Canadians who travel abroad will no longer have to take a molecular test — such as a PCR test — to return home, according to federal government sources not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. 

Those travellers will still be required to take a pre-arrival test, the sources said, but can instead opt for a rapid antigen test — which is typically cheaper than a molecular test and can provide results within minutes. 

Also starting March 1, unvaccinated children returning to Canada will no longer have to isolate for 14 days from schools, daycares or other crowded settings, the sources said. 

These changes were prompted by improving conditions as the current Omicron wave subsides, according to the sources, and are not due to the ongoing protest demonstrations.

Currently, travellers entering Canada must show proof of a negative molecular test taken within 72 hours of their departing flight or planned arrival at the land border. 

Fully vaccinated travellers may also be randomly selected for PCR testing upon arrival. According to sources, the government’s random-testing program will remain in effect, but travellers won’t have to quarantine while awaiting results. 

Ottawa is currently randomly testing thousands of vaccinated travellers daily upon arrival. Those who return from trips outside the U.S. must quarantine while waiting for their results. 

Some travellers have reported waiting up to six days to get their test results, or longer if they were given an at-home test, which must be shipped back to a lab.

Sources also told CBC News the government plans to lift its current advisory against non-essential travel abroad

The government is expected to provide more details about upcoming changes to its border measures at a news conference at 1 p.m. ET today.  

Travel rules faced criticism

Over the past several months, members of the travel industry and some physicians have lobbied the government to nix all its testing requirements for fully vaccinated travellers. 

People must pay for their pre-arrival molecular test, which can cost upward of $100.

Meanwhile, the government is spending millions of dollars to randomly test thousands of vaccinated travellers daily upon arrival.

Critics argue both the pre- and post-arrival tests are a waste of money, as Omicron has already spread across Canada. 

“What are we trying to protect against? Omicron is here,” said Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Zain Chagla in an interview last week.

“Long term, living with this virus is making sure people are immunized correctly, making sure that people understand risks, making sure that people have access to care locally. I don’t think travel is necessarily going to impede that.”

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