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Canada Loosens COVID-19 Arrival Testing Requirements

 

The Government of Canada has announced a significant scaling back of travel restrictions, including the loosening of the pre-arrival COVID-19 testing requirement and the removal of mandatory on-arrival testing.

Not only that, but the ongoing travel advisory has also been downgraded, representing a closer “return to normal” than we’ve ever experienced thus far.

Antigen Tests Now Allowed for Pre-Arrival Testing

Beginning on February 28, 2022 at 12:01am Eastern Time, fully vaccinated travellers will have the option of showing a negative antigen test taken within one day prior to their scheduled direct flight or arrival at the land border in order to enter Canada.

Like the United States, “within a day” here means one full calendar day before the date of your arrival – you can take the test at any time during the day prior to departure, and it’s not subject to a 24-hour rule.

The previous requirement of administering a molecular test within 72 hours of the direct flight to Canada remains an option, so travellers will be able to make the choice depending on which is more convenient and accessible.

The newly-granted optionality is most welcome, as antigen tests usually return results in 15 minutes or less, are much cheaper than PCR tests just about anywhere in the world, and are offered at a wider range of labs.

Indeed, our own Switch Health Antigen Test Kits work perfectly for this, as you can administer it via telehealth the day before departure and use it for entry.

It’s significantly cheaper at $40 per test (each $79 kit comes with two tests) compared to the Switch Health RT-LAMP Test Kits priced at $149.

Switch Health Antigen Test Kit

Fully vaccinated travellers who have recently tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 180 days may continue to show their positive molecular test to re-enter Canada without any need to show a negative pre-arrival test.

Testing on Arrival to Be Randomized

Furthermore, as of February 28, on-arrival tests for fully vaccinated travellers from non-US destinations will now be randomized. Until now, on-arrival tests have been administered uniformly for travellers who have been in countries other than the United States since December 2021.

You are no longer required to quarantine while awaiting test results for any tests conducted on-arrival, which is sure to be a welcome move for foreign travellers planning a visit to the country. 

Passengers wait to be tested after they arrive at Toronto's Pearson airport after mandatory coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing took effect for international arrivals in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada February 15, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

Testing will be conducted at the first port of entry, and travellers will be permitted to board connecting flights. Since there is always the possibility of being chosen for an on-arrival test, it’s still a good idea to pad connection times.

As usual, prior to arriving in Canada, make sure to fill out the ArriveCAN app.

On-arrival testing does not apply to travellers returning via the land border, who will simply need to present their pre-entry COVID-19 molecular test from the past 72 hours, an antigen test from the past day, or proof of recovery in the form of a positive molecular test from the past 180 days. 

A Downgrade in the Travel Advisory

Canada will also adjust its Travel Advisory down from Level 3 to Level 2, meaning the government will no longer be recommending against non-essential travel. 

The major implication here lies in the travel insurance policies offered by employers and credit cards, as the vast majority of these were nullified by an official advisory against non-essential travel.

Even though emergency medical insurance will now be back in play, it may still be worth considering additional COVID-19 travel insurance that includes quarantine costs should you test positive prior to returning to the country.

Children No Longer Need to Stay Home for 14 Days

Great news for family travellers: as of February 28, children travelling with fully vaccinated adults will no longer be subject to limitations on their activities upon their return to Canada.

This means that children will no longer need to wait 14 days before attending school, camp, daycare, allowing families to embark on international trips together without adverse impacts on children’s schedules. 

A Major Leap Forward in Canada’s Travel Restrictions

Since the introduction of the pre-arrival negative molecular test back in January 2021, our test requirements for entry have more or less been unchanged, save for the three weeks that we were exempt from presenting a test if we had left the country for 72 hours or less.

Here at Prince of Travel, we’ve often touched upon the cyclical nature of travel restrictions coming and going with the introduction and then waning of different COVID-19 variants. 

It’s incredibly encouraging to see our travel restrictions changing once again in the positive direction, as I expect these sets of changes to stick around, unlike the temporary exemptions of the past. 

While antigen tests may be less accurate than molecular tests, they are still very sensitive to high viral loads and offer a reasonable compromise in convenience and affordability.

It’s important to remember that while it sounds like this change in testing requirement makes our borders more vulnerable, the positivity rate at the border has seen a high of only 1.3% the entire time that on-arrival testing has been in place.

The easing of pre-arrival testing requirements represents a major step towards living with COVID-19 and recognizing it as an endemic and something we have to tolerate long-term, rather than spending an enormous amount of resources preventing its importation.

Finally, despite today’s positive news by the Government of Canada, keep in mind is that the travel requirements of your airline can still differ from those at your destination.

For example, Etihad Airways requires every person travelling with them to have a molecular test result from the past 72 0r 48 hours depending on your circumstance, even if your destination does not require one. 

If you’re flying from Abu Dhabi to Toronto with Etihad, then, you’ll still need a PCR test taken within the past 72 hours before your flight. 

Conclusion

The coming of spring also brings a hopeful yearning that the easing of our travel restrictions will prove more stable this year, and dare I say, permanent.

Beginning February 28, 2022, all Canadian air travellers returning from an international destination will now be permitted to take a COVID-19 antigen test from the past day, rather than having to seek out a more expensive and inconvenient molecular test within 72 hours.

Furthermore, on-arrival testing will now be randomized, with only a small selection of travellers having to be tested at the border when arriving from an international flight. Those arrivals will also no longer have to self-isolate while waiting for test results.

2022 began with the Omicron variant sweeping the globe, but lower infection rates here and around the world have given us reasons to be optimistic about a full resumption of international travel that looks closer than ever this year. 

 

19 Comments
  1. don

    I believe that if you have an overseas connection on your return to Canada that your antigen test must be taken within one day of the scheduled departure of the leg that lands you in Canada. Do I have this right?

  2. Kit

    The new requirement for Antigen is one day prior to the scheduled flight. Does this mean I cannot take the Antigen test in the day of departure. I will be on a cruise and i will be at sea one day prior to flight. I can get an antigen test immediately after disembarkation on the same day as my early evening flight.

    1. Ricky YVR

      It’s “within” one day, so the day of departure is fine too.

  3. Linda Radomski

    What I have read, if you take the prearrival antigen test and test positive you would then have to spend additional money to have a molecular (Lamp/PCR) as Canada does not accept the antigen positive result when returning to Canada after your quarantine in the the foreign country. This is stated at the bottom of the press release announcing the change from PCR to Antigen test. Am I reading this correctly?

  4. Richard

    As regards your statement:
    “ the vast majority of these were nullified by an official advisory against non-essential travel. “
    Canada Life wrote to me this week to tell me that the employer provided medical coverage has always applied while travelling abroad regardless of the government warning and that they treat Covid like any other health issue regarding coverage.

    1. TeeTee

      @Richard agree I called work insurance for both myself and souse and both covered.

      Mind you the first CV19 summer I did call the CC insurance and was told that there would be no travel insurance coverage

  5. Dave

    The on arrival testing has always been been random for vaccinated travellers. The only change is that if you are now selected for testing, you don’t have to quarantine until you get the results.

  6. Mary

    Hello Ricky, I am a bit confused about the timing for the pre-arrival antigen test. I called the government of canada and the employee said 24 hrs prior to returning. However, now I am hearing it is the day before, anytime, just like the US. Would you verify that somehow please.

  7. Tim L

    I have reached out to the ministry of transport to confirm the details surrounding land entry but doubt I will receive a reply. Given the antigen test requirement “the day before arrival” my question is simply this – I’m not trying to draw attention to how stupid this is, but rather asking a genuine honest question so I understand the rules when I go to the States. if I am planning a day trip to Buffalo next Saturday, I would be able to take the switch health rapid test at home on Friday (OK as it is administered by a telehealth service) and once negative, I am cleared to re-enter Canada the following day. So on Saturday morning, I am free to go to Buffalo, go to a packed mall, restaurants, stores, (even go see a hockey game or go to a concert in a packed arena), and then re-enter Canada using the negative antigen test result produced the day before via switch health? That’s my interpretation of the new rules (science based) anyway – am I wrong here? Not that I am going to actually go to crowded events, but I do want to go shopping and get some wings!

    1. TeeTee

      Preaching to the choir IMO TimL

    2. farnorthtrader

      My understanding is that the test still needs to be administered in the foreign country that you are coming from (in this case, requiring that your test be administered in the US). Makes absolutely no logical sense either way, but I think those are the rules.

  8. Scott

    Either way we still need to test and if positive will be stuck abroad. I assume when the CDC gets rid of their requirement so will Canada. I expected greater changes, but then again Trudeau always takes the easy way

    1. WT

      Ya this helps but I agree….still risk getting stuck away from home. Better but still not worth the risk to me.

  9. mark

    it also said that at-home tests are not an option and won’t be accepted but you state in this article that they are. ???

    1. Ricky YVR

      From the news release: “Taking a rapid antigen test at home is not sufficient to meet the pre-entry requirement – it must be authorized by the country in which it was purchased and must be administered by a laboratory, healthcare entity or telehealth service.”

      1. Mark Diamond

        Thanks ! I guess the binax now from
        Abbott should be good.

  10. Al

    Well, SMH in disbelief! Only a year too late to understand the science. But, here we are! Just be done with it all! It’s over, eliminate all the testing, open up the economy, the borders etc. We all have to pay our bills and need to live!!! If your scared or compromised or sick; just stay home where you’ll feel safer!! Otherwise, let’s
    go!!!!
    Keep on trucking 🤣

  11. robert

    Ricky I am reading the release from the government and it says option of using a rapid antigen test taken the day prior to arrival to their scheduled flight OR arrival at the land border You indicate above you dont need this for land entry

    1. Ricky YVR

      I’ve indicated that randomized on-arrival testing does not apply at the land border. Pre-arrival antigen (or molecular) testing still applies.

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