As of Nov. 30, fully vaccinated Canadians taking short trips abroad will no longer need proof of a negative COVID-19 test to return home, Ottawa confirmed Friday.
The federal government said the exemption would apply to fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents who depart and re-travel Canada within 72 hours. The rule will also apply to unvaccinated persons with entry if they are under 12 years of age and accompanied by their fully vaccinated parents or have certain medical conditions that prevent them from being vaccinated.
For now, Canadians returning from longer trips and all foreign travelers entering Canada must still show up evidence of a negative molecular test taken within 72 hours of their departing flight or scheduled arrival at the land border.
The government also announced that it will expand its list of accepted vaccines to travelers. Currently, the government only recognizes Health Canada approved vaccines Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. But from November 30, Canada will recognize as fully vaccinated those vaccinated with WHO-approved vaccines Sinopharm, Sinovac and COVAXIN.
The government also said that from January 15, certain groups of travelers who are currently exempt from certain entry requirements will only be allowed to enter Canada if they are fully vaccinated.
These groups include individuals reunited with family, international students, professional athletes, temporary foreign workers, and key service workers, including truck drivers.
“The forthcoming changes to Canada’s border tests and entry requirements reflect the next phase of our government’s approach as we adapt to improved vaccination rates both here in Canada and around the world,” Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said in a statement.
The government’s announcement that it will drop the test requirement for Canadians taking short trips follows weeks lobbying from politicians, that tourism industry, seniors and business groups for Ottawa to drop the requirement for all vaccinated travelers.
Test costs made short trips impractical
Molecular tests – such as the popular PCR test – can range from $ 150 to $ 300, making travel unaffordable for some people.
“In many cases, the cost of PCR testing can be higher than the cost of the trip itself,” said Jana Ray of CanAge, a senior advocacy group.
Sometimes travelers can Get free tests in the United States, but they are not available in all parts of the country and may not provide results within a traveler’s time frame.
Requiring travelers to take the test for short cross-border excursions has sparked the most criticism because the potential cost of the test makes the trip impractical for many.
“Who is going to pay anywhere from $ 150 to $ 300 for a quick trip to buy groceries or gas or eat or even visit friends?” said Faye Chamberlain of Stanstead, Que., Which borders Vermont.
In times before the pandemic, Chamberlain crossed into the United States several times a week. Now that she no longer has to worry about going out for a test, Chamberlain is ready to resume her cross-border travels.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “I have not been anywhere due to [of the test]. “
Border towns embrace decisions
The textual exemption is also being embraced by U.S. border towns, such as Point Roberts, Washington, which borders BC and has seen its economy tank thanks to the disappearance of BC tourists during the pandemic.
Ali Hayton, owner of Point Robert’s only grocery store, said that although the U.S. border has now reopened to fully vaccinated Canadians, many tourists have not returned – thanks to the price of the test.
“A family of four, you look at six hundred dollars to get down for the day,” she said.
But Hayton said the new probation should help spur economic activity in the city.
“It will definitely change things once those people can drive over and pick up a package or fill their gas tank or just come down and have lunch in the cafe.”
Samples are still required for longer trips
But not everyone is celebrating fully yet. This is because, so far, Canadians taking longer trips and foreigners entering Canada still have to take the molecular test.
At a press conference on Friday, a coalition of business and tourism representatives said the test should be eliminated now for all vaccinated travelers.
“This is very punishable by ordinary Canadian families and affects Canadian businesses. It discourages business travel,” said Perrin Beatty, CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
“We have to … get rid of this test completely.”
When fully vaccinated Canadians cross the United States over land, they face no test requirements.
Air passengers to the United States must show a negative proof COVID-19 antigen test.