Government ministers announced during a Tuesday briefing that, from February 28, travelers headed for The Great White North will have the option of providing a negative antigen test taken within 24 hours of their Canada-bound flight.
This would replace the current requirement for a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure, although this will also remain an option for travelers. In order to be accepted, rapid tests will need to have been administered by a “laboratory, health-care entity or telehealth service”, the Toronto Star reported.
The new policy changes will also put an end to testing requirements for fully vaccinated Canadians making brief trips (less than 72 hours) outside of the country.
Some fully vaccinated arrivals will still be randomly selected for compulsory PCR testing at the airport but won’t need to quarantine while awaiting the results, according to the National Post.
Also, unvaccinated children under the age of 12 who have traveled outside the country with fully vaccinated adults will no longer need to be kept out of daycares and schools for 14 days following their return home.
Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos today told reporters, “These changes are possible not only because we have passed the peak of Omicron, but because Canadians across the country have listened to the science and to experts.”
The Canadian Health Ministry reported that roughly 80 percent of Canadians are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with more than 40 percent having already received a booster dose, as well.
The U.S.’ northern neighbor is also lowering its global travel advisory, which previously recommended that Canadians avoid all non-essential travel abroad, but is now merely recommending that citizens take appropriate precautions.
“Though today’s announcement brings us one step closer to where our industry needs to be, in requiring pre-departure rapid antigen tests, the government missed an opportunity to align with other international jurisdictions that removed pre-departure test requirements for fully vaccinated travelers,” the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable industry group responded to the news in a statement.
Multiple provinces—Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec—are also relaxing social restrictions as hospitalization numbers fall and epidemiological conditions improve. Ontario said it’s accelerating a plan to lift vaccination pass requirements and capacity limits placed on many businesses. And, on Monday, Alberta eliminated its mandates that children wear masks in schools.