Canada reopening its borders to fully vaccinated international travellers

Despite evidence that a fourth wave of COVID infections is gathering steam in Canada , the country is going ahead with plans to allow fully vaccinated international travellers to enter the country for non-essential reasons, such as tourism, as of September 7, 2021.

The federal government says the decision to ease entry requirements is based on the latest available data, scientific evidence and epidemiological situation both in Canada and internationally.

According to a statement from the Canada Border Services Agency, as the volume of travellers has increased in recent months, the border test positivity rate has remained low. Between August 9 and 26, the positivity rate for fully vaccinated travellers randomly selected for testing at the border was 0.19% (112 positive tests out of 58,878 completed).

While cases are currently increasing in Canada, the CBSA noted that illness severity and hospitalization rates remain manageable as Canada’s vaccination rates continue to rise.  This data along with continued adherence to public health measures by Canadians and incoming travellers, means that Canada is better able to prevent outbreaks of infection and can now allow more incoming fully vaccinated travellers without increasing the risk to the health and safety of Canadians.

The new rules will apply as of 12:01 a.m. EDT on September 7, 2021 and airports like Toronto’s Pearson are warning travellers to expect delays as they cope with the expected influx of visitors.

“We do expect to see an increase in international travellers as a result of this change, and we’ll continue working with our agency partners and airlines to best manage the flow of passengers,” the Greater Toronto Airport Authority told CTV News.

The GTAA said that  international travellers arriving at Pearson should prepare for the arrivals process to take one to three hours, or even longer, due to new COVID-19 screening measures that involves clearing the Canada Border Services Agency and Public Health Agency of Canada screening process.

According to the CBSA, fully vaccinated foreign nationals won’t need to submit to a COVID-19 test on arrival or enter quarantine, but they must meet these criteria in order to enter Canada:

  • Be fully vaccinated: a traveller must have received, and show proof of, the full series of a vaccine — or combination of vaccines — accepted by the Government of Canada at least 14 days prior to entering Canada. Currently, those vaccines are manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)
  • Have a valid pre-arrival COVID-19 molecular test result taken no more than 72 hours before their scheduled flight or their arrival at the land border crossing, or a previous positive test result taken between 14 and 180 days before departure to Canada.  Antigen tests, often called “rapid tests” are not accepted
  • Be asymptomatic
  • Submit their mandatory information via ArriveCAN (App or website), including proof of vaccination in English or French and a quarantine plan
  • Be admissible under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
  • Be willing to take a COVID-19 test on arrival, if selected

While Canada will welcome foreign tourists as of Sept. 7, Ottawa continues to advise Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside of the country because international travel increases a person’s risk of exposure to COVID-19 and its variants, as well as of spreading it to others.

For fully vaccinated parents or guardians travelling with unvaccinated children under 12 years of age, the children are exempt from quarantine, but must follow enhanced public health measures, which includes not attending daycare or school for 14 days.

Unvaccinated children between the ages of 12-17 and dependent children 18 or older (due to a mental or physical condition) are permitted to enter Canada, but are subject to the 14-day quarantine.

All unvaccinated children (except those under 5 years of age) will remain subject to day 1 and day 8 testing requirements. Provinces and territories may have more stringent rules for people who have recently returned from travel.

For those who are not vaccinated, there are no changes to testing and quarantine requirements. Only those who are eligible to enter Canada such as those entering by right – Canadian citizens, permanent residents and persons registered under the Indian Act, can cross the border, but they remain subject to quarantine, all testing requirements (pre-arrival, upon arrival/day 1 and on day 8) and the mandatory submission of travel, contact and quarantine information via ArriveCAN.

Direct commercial and private passenger flights from India and Morocco are temporarily suspended.

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