Canada has just announced that they are dropping PCR testing for International arrivals effective March 1st.
Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced that the country will drop the 72-hour pre-flight PCR testing for vaccinated travelers, swapping the slow and expensive PCR-type tests for quick and cheap antigen tests. Instead of showing proof of a negative 72-hour PCR test, as of March 1, fully vaccinated international arrivals can show proof of a negative 24-hour antigen test, otherwise known as a ‘rapid test’.
However, fully vaccinated travelers may still be randomly selected for testing upon arrival, but without the requirement to quarantine while results are being generated.
The new antigen testing allowance is more consistent with the United States entry requirements and far more cost-effective for travelers.
The government will keep its random testing policy in place at the border, but travelers will not be required to quarantine while they wait for tedious results, which have taken up to 4 or 5 days in the past. The type of test being used randomly for arriving passengers is still reported as being a PCR-type test, which makes little sense from a cost and resource perspective. The government has been increasingly criticized that the PCR-type tests are in high demand in hospitals and should be switched for antigen at the border as well.
While seemingly “too little, too late”, the new border rules show a dramatic shift for Canada, whose entry requirements have remained some of the strictest in the world. It’s no doubt that the massive protests against restrictions and constant lobbying from the travel industry have played even a partial role in this decision.
Air Canada, WestJet, and Toronto’s Pearson Airport recently teamed up to demand an end to Canada’s testing policy.
The trio argued that the testing of asymptomatic travelers was wasteful and that the tests should be diverted to people who need it the most. They cited the fact that just 1.08% of fully vaccinated arrivals tested positive. Some Provinces have had to restrict testing to those with symptoms to address the shortages.
The Omicron was skyrocketing in Canada last month, but the new cases have been steadily declining the past few weeks. 80% of the population vaccinated and 44% boosted. now seems like a good time to loosen restrictions in time for spring/summer vacations.
Opting for 1 antigen test instead of 2 PCR tests will jump-start the recovery for Canada’s battered travel and tourism industry. Currently, citizens and foreigners need to take a test upon arrival and isolate until the result of the test is given. “Many of those tests are being sent to other provinces for processing. And the processing time, which is supposed to have a standard delivery of three days, is exceeding that,” Tourism Industry Association of Canada president Beth Potter said. Because of the backlogs of tests, it is taking seven days to receive the results for some people. Most travelers are not going to want to book a vacation and spend the whole trip in isolation, so they simply don’t go.
There is also a cost component to the mass testing of International Arrivals.
PCR tests are not cheap and can range anywhere from $80 to $250. This adds a huge burden to any prospective tourists. Not to mention, the Canadian government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to test and process these incoming travelers.
The government also announced that they will be easing the quarantine measures for children under twelve,
allowing them to return to school rather than isolate for two weeks. This will allow families to book vacations without worrying about keeping their child home for weeks afterward.
Canada Removes “Do Not Travel” Advisory
Canada has choosen not to drop their “Do Not Travel” advisory which advises all citizens to “Avoid non-essential travel outside Canada due to the risk of the Omicron variant that causes COVID-19.” While this advisory is aimed to give citizens information and is not legally binding, it has surely deterred many travelers from leaving the country.
Travelers will still be required to submit their personal information, including vaccination status, on the ArriveCAN app. Those who are not vaccinated and are eligible for entry under another exception must instead include their quarantine plans in the form.
Canada’s tourism industry, like others, was decimated due to the pandemic and heavy-handed government restrictions. Government financial support can only help so much, many of these businesses need patrons to survive. In 2020, tourism gross domestic product was down 47.9% annually, while economy-wide, GDP fell at just -5.4%. This could be the first opportunity in two years for the Canadian tourism industry to see some recovery and hopefully, growth.
To summarize the new rules for entering Canada as of March 1, 2021, assuming you are fully vaccinated, are:
- 24-hour pre-flight antigen test with a negative result
- Uploading the test result to ArriveCan app and filling out all other necessary fields
- Potential random PCR test on arrival, no quarantine needed while awaiting results
Travelers are still more than welcome to bring proof of a negative PCR test if they wish, which must be performed within 72-hours of their departing flight into Canada.
Unvaccinated foreign nationals are still not permitted entry into Canada for tourism. Only unvaccinated Canadian citizens and residents can enter, with much stricter rules applying.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com