Last Updated on January 7, 2021

Almost everyone over the age of five flying into Canada now needs to prove they don’t have COVID-19 by showing the results of one of two approved tests.

Air travellers who can’t – or won’t – produce a negative COVID-19 test result will be turned back at the gate.  

“The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over,” said Transport Minister Marc Garneau in a statement. “We need to continue to be vigilant, and we need to continue to take action to reduce the risks of spreading the virus by air travel. 

“This new interim order will help protect Canadians and air travellers. We continue to assess public health risks, as we to work to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Canada,” he said.

Under a new interim order issued under the Quarantine Act by Health Minister Patty Hajdu, travellers must prove starting Jan. 7 that they have had a negative COVID-19 test result before boarding their flight to Canada.

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 “Pre-departure testing offers an additional layer of protection to Canada’s existing multilayered strategy, in addition to existing measures such as mandatory 14-day quarantine,” said Hajdu. 

“However, we still urge Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada. It is important that Canadians understand that they risk being exposed to the virus during travel outside the country and, in turn, may expose other Canadians, including those most at risk of serious illness.” 

Two types of COVID-19 tests are being accepted:

  • the molecular polymerase chain reaction (PCR), or;
  • the loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) test.

These must have been done within 72 hours of the traveller’s scheduled departure to Canada.

Once in Canada, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers will question and observe the new arrivals for any indication that they may be ill. 

Anyone deemed to be showing signs of COVID-19 will be referred to Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) officials for further assessment, screening and questioning. Those officials will also examine the new arrivals’ quarantine plans.

Public health officials will be working closely with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and provincial law enforcement agencies to ensure compliance.

‘Air Travellers Must Still Quarantine’

“These new measures do not replace any of the previous measures we have put in place to protect Canadians,” said Public Safety Minister Bill Blair.

“All travellers must still quarantine for 14 days after they arrive unless explicitly exempt. We continue to strongly advise against travel of any kind, and if anyone doesn’t follow the quarantine requirements, they could face severe penalties.”

There are a few temporary exceptions to the rules as Ottawa tries to be flexible to allow time for the testing systems to adjust. 

Travellers from Saint Pierre et Miquelon will not have to show this COVID-19 testing proof until Jan. 14, and those from Haiti get until Jan. 21. Anyone from the Caribbeans or South America can use tests conducted within 96 hours of departure, instead of 72, until Jan. 14.

“The decision to implement the pre-boarding negative testing measures was not made lightly. While we recognize its potential to cause inconvenience and frustration to Canadians abroad travelling back to Canada, we are doing what is necessary to help protect the health of all Canadians,” said Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne.

In addition to completing their full quarantine period, returning travellers must monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and submit that information electronically through ArriveCAN. If symptoms develop or a positive test for COVID-19 is received once in Canada, travellers should contact local public health authorities.

All Canadian border restrictions faced by foreign nationals prior to this interim order are still in place. 

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