Published on : Thursday, February 18, 2021
Canada has recently introduced a new set of stringent travel restrictions and entry rules in a bid to curb the spread of the new variant of coronavirus disease in the country. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the latest measures have been undertaken to help prevent the new and more transmissible variants of COVID-19 from entering the country, and shared that nobody wants a third wave to start.
The latest travel restrictions have been extended until March 21 for U.S. travellers and until April 21 for travellers from other countries. As a part of the new rules, travellers arriving in Canada will have to take three separate COVID-19 tests. The first will be taken no more than 72 hours before arrival, and then another will be taken upon arrival at the Canadian border or airport. Travellers will then be provided with an additional testing kit upon arrival, which is to be used 10 days later for a third and final test.
People driving into the country will also have to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken in the U.S. within 72 hours or must offer proof of a positive test result between 14 and 90 days before arrival, which is long enough for the illness to have passed, though not long enough for the immunity to have disappeared. As of February 22, travellers arriving at land border points will be required to take COVID-19 tests upon arrival. Prime Minister Trudeau also announced fresh hotel quarantine requirement set to come in effect from the same date.
In late January, Trudeau announced that travellers arriving in the country by air will have to undergo a mandatory PCR coronavirus test. While they await the results of that test, they will be forced to quarantine at a hotel for up to three days on their own expense. During that time people with negative test results were able to quarantine at home under significantly increased surveillance and enforcement and those with positive tests were immediately required to quarantine in designated government facilities.
As per the latest rules all air travellers will have to undertake mandatory hotel quarantine. Health Minister Patty Hajdu informed that travellers will be allowed to choose where they wish to stay, and book in advance of departure. She mentioned that the government-approved hotels will be listed on a booking website as of February 18, all of which are located near airports in the four cities currently allowed to accept international flights- Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. It was also informed that costs of the hotels might vary slightly at each location and will include costs associated with the room, food, cleaning, infection prevention and control measures, and security as well as transportation.
The new restrictions come in addition to the mandatory 14-day quarantine people arriving in Canada have been required to undertake for almost a year now. Trudeau has informed that people who fail to present a negative COVID-19 test result may face severe penalties including fines of up to $3,000 per person. He also announced that the government will be implementing new measures to ensure extensive follow up by Health Canada to ensure travellers are getting tested and properly quarantining. A Canada Border Services Agency official has also warned travellers to expect longer wait times at the border as a result of the precautions and informed that the CBSA will not compromise the health and safety of Canadians for the sake of border wait times.
The new measures will apply to all travellers even those who have already received the vaccine. However, some groups that will be exempt from the land border measures will include the truck drivers who account for most of the cross-border travel. Emergency services providers, and people who cross the Canada-U.S. border regularly for work, will also not be required to provide a COVID-19 test or undergo the mandatory quarantine requirement. Other people like Canadian citizens (including dual citizens) or permanent residents, certain people who have been approved for Canadian permanent residence, certain temporary foreign workers, certain international students, protected persons, immediate family members of Canadians, extended family members of Canadians among others will also be exempted from the latest restrictions.
The federal government is also allowing people to come to Canada for compassionate reasons, such as to be present during the final moments of life for a loved one, or to provide support or care for someone who is critically ill, to provide medical support to a person who needs it or to attend a funeral, or end of life ceremony. Before arrive at Canada, compassionate travellers will have to fill out an application to get limited release from quarantine before the 14 days are up.
The only other exemptions to the mandatory 14-day quarantine requirement are crew members, people invited by the health minister to help with the COVID-19 response, and other healthcare workers, members of visiting forces who are coming to work, people coming to receive medical services within 36 hours of their arrival, crossing the border in a trans-border community, people crossing into Canada aboard a “vessel” for the purposes of research, (as long as they stay on the vessel) and other circumstances listed in the new Order in Council. In all cases, Canadian border services officers will have the final say on who gets to enter the country.
Trudeau also mentioned that the government is aware of the need to be thoughtful and compassionate about people who are in extremely difficult situations and absolutely need to travel and will continue to work with people and the ministers involved will continue to watch closely for additions or adjustments that need to be made to such measures. In accordance with airlines, the government has also taken steps to make it harder for Canadians to access sunny vacation destinations. In late January, Trudeau said Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and Air Transat have all agreed to cancel air services to all Caribbean destinations and Mexico, all of which will continue until April 30.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has said that the federal government is turning to private security firms to help enforce the 14-day mandatory quarantine and conduct in-person compliance visits. According to PHAC, contracts totalling $2 million have been awarded to G4S Secure Solutions (Canada) Ltd., GardaWorld and Paladin Risk Solutions. The Canadian Corps of Commissionaires, a non-profit that hires Canadian Armed Forces veterans and retired RCMP officers, has also been tapped to help with in-person visits. Trudeau added that authorities are not trying to punish people with the new measures, but trying to keep people safe. He shared that the border measures will help stop the spread of COVID-19 and new variants.