Canada has announced that it will ease pre-flight Covid testing rules for fully vaccinated international travellers from 28 February, enabling them to take a rapid antigen test, rather than a molecular test such as a PCR.
Rapid tests may be taken the day before arriving in the country, and PCR tests can be taken 72 hours before a scheduled flight or arrival at the border.
The change is expected to make travel to Canada cheaper and faster for many. Antigen tests are more affordable than molecular ones and offer results within minutes of use.
The global travel advisory for Canadians has also been changed. The government previously recommended against all non-essential travel, but now only suggests that citizens take precautions when travelling abroad.
Random testing for vaccinated travellers entering Canada will continue under the new measures.
The changes come as Canada passes ‘the peak of Omicron’
According to Health minister Jean-Yves Duclos, the government will continue to monitor conditions following the change, with the aim of potentially dropping Covid testing requirements entirely for fully vaccinated Canadians making short trips – less than 72 hours – abroad.
Current Health Ministry figures state that approximately 80 per cent of Canadians are fully vaccinated. Over 40 per cent have also taken a booster shot.
“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,” Duclos said.
Travellers to Canada may still be subject to additional requirements from provincial governments, However, several provinces, including Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec and Ontario have now announced a relaxation of restrictions as coronavirus rates fall.
Canada remains comparatively cautious in easing restrictions
The move has largely been welcomed by Canada’s travel industry. Suzanne Acton-Gervais, Interim President of the National Airlines Council of Canada, commented: "Today's announcement by the federal government is a step forward both for travellers, our industry, and for the Canadian economy, which relies on trade and tourism."
However, a statement by the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable industry group felt that the government was proceding too cautiously, saying: “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 travellers.”
Many countries have already removed, or announced plans to remove, testing requirements for international travellers. India, France and Bermuda have eased vaccine requirements for international travellers in the past week, while much of Scandinavia relaxed testing requirements at the start of the month. The UK also dropped all testing requirements on 11 February.