"Today we find ourselves in a much better position than we were in March 2020."
That's Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, who announced Tuesday (Feb.15) that the federal government is dropping the molecular COVID-19 test requirement to enter Canada starting Feb. 28.
As the country moves past the highest spike in infections spurred by the Omicron variant, Duclos stated that it is time for the county to adjust its approach.
"Today I am announcing that we are easing our border measures," he said. "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 follow the public health measures and taken steps to protect themselves."
As of Feb. 28, travellers may use a rapid antigen test to meet Canada's COVID-19 travel requirement instead of a PCR test. However, they may be subject to random testing upon arrival.
Fully vaccinated travellers returning to Canada
Upon entry to Canada, fully vaccinated travellers from anywhere in the world will be subject to random COVID-19 PCR testing. But travellers who are selected under the random testing surveillance program will not need to quarantine while awaiting results.
Children under 12 years of age
Children under 12 years of age who are not fully vaccinated and travelling with fully vaccinated adults will no longer need to wait and self isolate before attending school, daycare, or day camps. Additionally, they will no longer be subject to testing and other specific requirements.
Unvaccinated travellers will continue to be required to be tested on arrival and on their eighth day in Canada. They must also quarantine for 14 days.
Travellers may use either a COVID-19 Rapid antigen test or a molecular PCR test
Travellers will now have the option of using either a negative COVID-19 Rapid antigen test or a molecular PCR test to meet pre-entry requirements. The COVID-19 antigen test must be authorized by the country in which it was purchased and must be administered by a laboratory healthcare entity or telehealth service. Taking a rapid antigen test at home is not sufficient to meet the pre-entry requirement
Travellers who choose to present a valid negative rapid antigen test will have to take the test no more than 24 hours before their scheduled flight or arrival at the land border.
For those choosing to take a molecular PCR test, the rules don't change. The PCR test must be taken within 72 hours prior to departure.
Prior COVID-19 infection for entry to Canada
To prove a previous COVID-19 infection, travellers must show proof of a molecular test result taken at least 10 calendar days and no more than 180 calendar days before entering Canada.
Travel health notice adjusted
The Government of Canada will adjust the travel health notice from level three to level two. As a result, travellers are no longer recommended to avoid all travel for non-essential purposes.
But Duclos cautioned that there are still serious risks involved with travelling abroad at this current juncture in the pandemic.
"I want to underscore that Canadians should still exercise caution when travelling abroad," he said. "There is still the real risk of becoming sick or stranded while abroad and having to extend their trip or find themselves in need of medical assistance, should they test positive for COVID-19 while travelling abroad."
Should you travel abroad?
Travellers should consider the availability of medical services in a foreign country, and plan for the potential high costs associated with medical treatment and extending their trip, should they test positive for COVID-19 while abroad.
They must also understand that there is a continued risk that border and travel measures in other countries, as well as in Canada, may change while they are abroad and should regularly review the entry requirements and exemptions for their travel situation.
Lifting bans on international flights at airports
As of Feb. 28, the ban on international flights to all remaining airports that normally receive international flights will be lifted.
ArriveCAN App remains in place
All travellers, regardless of how long they were away from Canada, continue to be required to submit their mandatory information via ArriveCAN (free mobile app or website), including proof of vaccination and a quarantine plan prior to arriving in Canada.
Find out how to use the app with Vancouver Is Awesome's guide.
Canadians should expect further relaxing of travel restrictions should COVID-19 cases and hospitalization numbers continue to decrease, Duclos noted.
"This means that again, if the situation warrants, the testing exemption for short trips, under 72 hours, for instance, could be reinstated and eventually further testing requirements could be dropped," he said.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra also took a moment to speak about the upcoming cruise season, remarking that the federal government was developing a program for COVID-19 testing for cruise ship travellers arriving at Canadian ports.
The program will be announced in the coming weeks and is expected to be in place before the start of the spring cruise season.
Today, we announced new border measures: pic.twitter.com/caXHtDYyIM— Omar Alghabra (@OmarAlghabra) February 15, 2022