Only a few weeks after suspending the random testing requirement in a bid to ease congestion at arrival halls, Canada is now bringing it back a second time, despite the travel chaos affecting airports at the minute. While it seemed for a brief moment the rule could be close to being officially abandoned, the recent news points to the contrary.
Canada is one of the strictest countries in the Western Hemisphere right now: in order to enter, all foreigners, including American citizens, must be fully vaccinated and comply with a series of other health regulations at the border. Those include undergoing mandatory Covid testing when picked out by immigration officers.
Random Tests Are Back – And They’ve Now Been Moved Off-Site
On July 14, Canada again reimposed random mandatory testing for international arrivals, coincidentally at a time when other countries are reviving old Covid mandates. Foreseeing criticism, the Public Health Agency of Canada came out in defense of testing as an important measure to keep Canadians safe and avoid the import of new variants into the country.
Previously, the Government had insisted the lifting of random testing was only temporary, part of a ‘broader strategy’ to both ease travel woes at the peak of the tourist season, when bottlenecks at the border are expected, and move testing off-site. While the former is yet to be solved, testing booths have now been reallocated outside of arrival halls.
Starting July 19, all tourists and residents alike arriving in Canada will be selected for testing on the spot, even if they are fully vaccinated and have met all other requirements for travel. All major airports, including Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Toronto will apply the policy. There are other, far more bureaucratic rules for the unvaccinated.
Tourists who are not immunized are not allowed to enter Canada anyway, but returning Canadians (and permanent residents) still can. From that date, they will be directed to testing labs outside the airports, pharmacies or other approved test providers. This means that, if you’re the ‘lucky’ one, it may be a while until you’re cleared and allowed to go home after landing.
There’s more: unvaccinated travelers who are allowed to cross the Canadian border (e.g. Canadian citizens) must still complete a 14-day quarantine, with further testing on days 1 and 8. On the other hand, vaccinated tourists who test positive will be legally required to isolate for 10 days from the issue of the test.
Canadian Tourism Is Hanging On For Dear Life
The return of the stringent rule will deal a fresh blow to Canadian tourism, one of the industries most heavily affected by Ottawa’s crisis management choices. Now that traveling to Canada is associated with excessive bureaucracy and stress, most Americans are simply avoiding it altogether, depriving Canadian businesses, especially along the border line, of some much-needed tourist dollars.
Even though Americans who cross into Canada nowadays are very likely to be fully vaccinated, taking into account the country’s restrictive entry regime, they may give their Northern neighbor a skip this summer – much like the blacklisted unvaccinated. After all, ‘mandatory random testing continues at land border points of entry, with no changes’.
For example, Canada is probably one of a handful of countries in the Western World right now that still has an entry form in place. Like the Public Health Agency reiterated, travelers must continue using the ArriveCAN app, where they must submit personal and other health information ahead of traveling.
Public Reaction Has Been Mixed
Almost immediately after the controversial mandate was reinstated, restriction-wary Canadians and the current Government’s political opponents voiced their frustration. In an email to CTV News, ‘transport critic’ Melissa Lantsman decried an alleged lack of science behind these decisions.
Lantsman specifically stated that ‘there was no science shared to test fully vaccinated travelers, no science shared to pause the testing, and no science shared about re-establishing the random testing‘. In Lantsman’s view, the Trudeau Administration is ‘playing political games’ that will only make matters worse for both travelers and the Canadian travel industry.
Simultaneously, NDP health critic Don Davies stood behind the decision, agreeing it helps detect more virulent strains of Covid that may pose a risk to Canada, and trace new positive cases imported from abroad. Davies also applauded the Government’s decision to move testing off-site, something airport officials had been campaigning for months.
Currently, in order to enter Canada as a tourist, you need to tick all of the below boxes:
- Present a vaccination certificate
- Download and insert your data into the ArriveCAN app
- Have no Covid symptoms
- Take a test on arrival if selected
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com