As of January 7, all air travellers to Canada must present a negative COVID-19 test before boarding, regardless of whether the travel was essential or non-essential. The polymerase chain reaction test (PCR) must be done within 72 hours of the flight departure for its results to be considered valid.
Failure to produce proof, either physically or electronically, of a negative COVID-19 test when boarding will result in a denial of entry onto the flight, explains Rebecca Purdy, senior spokesperson for Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
“Unless otherwise exempt, presentation of a valid negative test to the airline will be a condition of boarding a flight to Canada. Airlines are required to refuse boarding to travellers that are unable to demonstrate this.”
People who are exempted from this mandate include the flight crew, children under the age of five, and emergency service providers. Specific exemptions and alterations of the federal mandate for certain locations, such as Haiti, can be found in the Government of Canada’s news release for air travellers.
“This new testing requirement will help prevent further introduction and transmission of COVID-19 and new variants of the virus into Canada,” says Purdy, as COVID-19 cases in Canada continue to increase, and cases of new strains have begun to appear sparsely throughout the country.
Transport Canada spokesperson Sau Sau Liu says the department is urging flyers to reconsider non-essential international travel, and asks for all passengers to be conscious of where they are travelling to and where they are travelling from.
“In order for a traveller to be exempt from mandatory quarantine requirements, they must meet an exception as outlined in section 6 of the Orders in Council 2020-0967 … These exceptions do not apply to anyone who has signs and symptoms of COVID-19.”
“Canadians who are planning to travel abroad should consider how they will meet these requirements before departure. Travellers with planned flights to Canada are strongly encouraged to take note of this information, in order to be compliant with the requirements, and to avoid being refused boarding by the airline,” says Liu.
In addition to the required negative COVID-19 test, as well as a mask, passengers are still expected to quarantine for the mandatory 14 days and reach out to a health care provider if any COVID-19 symptoms show following their flight. Upon arriving at their destination, travellers now must disclose their quarantine plans to a CBSA officer.
“It is important to know that quarantine requirements remain the same,” Purdy explains. “All persons entering Canada ‘must’ isolate themselves for 14 days if they show symptoms or have a confirmed case of COVID-19. Otherwise, they should quarantine themselves for 14 days even if they do not have symptoms of COVID-19.”
“In order for a traveller to be exempt from mandatory quarantine requirements,” Purdy continues, “they must meet an exception as outlined in section 6 of the Orders in Council 2020-0967 – Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Mandatory Isolation), No. 8. This Order is in effect ending January 21, 2021, and can be prolonged as necessary for public health reasons. These exceptions do not apply to anyone who has signs and symptoms of COVID-19.”
In his first public address of 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadians to avoid non-essential travel, and warned the country of the consequences that will come with ignoring the travel guidelines.
“You need to take this seriously,” said the Prime Minister. “Not following the rules could mean real consequences, including fines and prison time.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has created a global crisis that is having a significant impact on the air industry and all travellers,” Liu explains. “The Government of Canada has multiple measures in place to protect the health and safety of Canadians, and to help prevent air travel from being a source of further introduction and spread of COVID-19 and new variants of the virus into Canada.”