November 30, 2023

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COVID: Canada’s border rules are easing

Starting Monday, some of Canada’s pandemic border restrictions are being eased for those who are fully vaccinated and for children regardless of their vaccination status.

One of the main changes is that unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children ages five to 11 who are accompanied by a fully vaccinated parent or guardian will not have to complete a pre-entry COVID-19 test to enter Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) announced Friday.

Pre-entry tests will still be required for eligible partially vaccinated or unvaccinated travellers ages 12 and older, PHAC said. Children under five are not required to provide a negative COVID-19 test upon entry.

There are also changes coming to the current requirement on international travellers to provide a quarantine plan upon entry.

All who are fully vaccinated, children aged 5-11 who are accompanied by a fully vaccinated parent or guardian, and travellers who have a valid medical contraindication to COVID-19 vaccines, will no longer have to present a plan to isolate upon their return to Canada.

Further, fully vaccinated Canadians will not be federally required to mask while in public spaces for the 14 days following their return from abroad.

All travellers, regardless of their vaccination status, still have to continue to wear a mask throughout the duration of their travel journey if using federally-regulated means of transportation such as a plane or train, and will be informed by border agents when they can remove their mask.

These changes will come into effect April 25 as of 1 a.m. EDT.

Also effective Monday, the federal requirement for those coming into Canada from abroad to have to monitor and report if they develop signs or symptoms of COVID-19, and maintain a list of close contacts and locations visited, will be removed.

Canada is also axing the requirement for travellers to quarantine if another person in the same group develops symptoms or tests positive upon their return.

For now, there are no plans to lift the federal vaccine mandates for boarding planes, trains or cruise ships, or the mask mandates, federal public health officials told reporters on Friday.

“This kind of requirement requires ongoing evaluation. Right now of course within the Canadian context, Omicron BA.2 is going strong… I think it’s one of the least intrusive measures but adds definitely another layer of protection. But I think, you know, one has always got to reevaluate policies over time, including the epidemiologic situation in Canada, and overseas as well,” said Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam about the mask mandate.

“The health and safety of Canadians remains our top priority and as vaccination levels and health-care system capacity improve, we will continue to consider further easing of measures at the borders based on science,” said Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos in a statement.

At the border, anyone entering Canada who isn’t fully vaccinated will continue to be tested with a COVID-19 molecular test upon arrival, and on day eight of their 14-day quarantine.

The government is continuing its “mandatory random testing” program for fully vaccinated travellers as well, but those who are selected do not have to quarantine while awaiting their test results. This randomized testing is limited to four major international airports in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.

Though, if you have recovered from COVID-19 and can provide proof of a positive molecular test result taken no more than 180 days prior to entering Canada, PHAC is suggesting bringing that proof with you in addition to your other required documentation, because that past positive test result will prevent you from being selected for mandatory randomized testing.

PHAC says that all travellers still have to use the ArriveCAN app or webpage to provide their mandatory travel information—such as contact info and proof of vaccination— within 72 hours of arriving in Canada, or before boarding a plane or cruise ship destined for this country.

Government officials are cautioning that failure to properly fill out their ArriveCAN forms may be subjected to quarantine or they could face fines and other enforcement actions.