It is now official: Canada has finally eased its travel restrictions. It’s not at all what the World Health Organization experts recommend (i.e. eliminating ALL travel restrictions) but hey, we’ll take it — and we all need to continue to make our voices heard to get the rest of the unscientific measures eliminated (because public opinion is what matters with this government).
Here are all the details of the changes announced by the Government of Canada and that are now in effect.
Here are the 5 changes… and 2 logistical elements (at the beginning and at the end):
- Now in effect
- Started Monday, February 28th
- Pre-arrival testing requirement modified:
- New option to use a rapid antigen test
- Done the day of the flight or the full day before (NO “24 hour” limit*)
- Rapid antigen test can ONLY be used if negative; not if positive
- Arrival test requirement modified:
- Isolation while awaiting arrival test results eliminated
- For non-USA travelers because USA travelers = already exempt from isolation
- Reduced number of travelers tested on arrival (from ≈ 100% to ≈ 20%)
- Special rules for unvaccinated children under 12 eliminated
- They no longer need to stay out of school or daycare for 14 days
- They no longer need to do a test on Day 8
- Global advisory against non-essential travel eliminated
- It was just a recommendation anyway
- It simplifies travel insurance
- Restriction on which airports can receive international flights eliminated
- It’s not really a big deal for most travelers, those in major cities
- NO other changes
- If the measure isn’t listed above, it’s NOT changing
*Now confirmed… less than 48 hours from the rule taking effect, the government was still not able to tell us exactly what precise timing would be allowed for the new test option, but now they finally decided and it’s official
That’s all that has changed, unfortunately.
Further down in this article, I’ll summarize all the rules you need to know to understand the full picture of what remains in terms of rules so you can travel with ease (and soon we’ll be publishing a brand-new pandemic travel resources page to share our vast experience with you: sign up for our free newsletter so you don’t miss anything).
Details on each of the 7 points
Let’s break down each of the 5 changes… and also the effective date and rules that aren’t changing. This is all very new so I’ll do this briefly and we’ll have more content in the next few days.
Effective Monday, February 28th
There are NO changes before February 28th at 12:01 AM Eastern time zone. Simple. If you’re not familiar with the current rules and want to travel before then, make sure you read the section at the end where I list them.
For weeks now the WHO has been recommending that all restrictions be removed and that they be removed now and lots of countries that follow the science and the experts are removing all restrictions. But the Canadian government is taking its time, having announced this in mid-February.
It’s not like when there are new measures added, in those cases obviously it can take time to prepare (especially with the legendary efficiency and speed of governments). But here rules are being removed… it could have been faster.
The panel of scientific experts assembled by the government itself has been saying since May 2021 that the border measures are excessive!!! It’s been over 8 months!
Pre-arrival test can now be a rapid antigen test
To be very clear, everyone aged 5 and above still needs a pre-arrival test to enter Canada.
It can be either:
- A negative molecular test (72 hours)
- A positive molecular test (11 to 180 days)
- A negative rapid antigen test (day of the flight or the full day before)
That last one in bold is just a new option that is added. Nothing else changes.
As mentioned, there was 1 element about this change that was still not very clear at this point. At first, they hadn’t specified if the limit would really be “24 hours”, or 1 full calendar day prior like the USA rules (which everyone wrongly interprets as being 24 hours).
The minister said “24 hours” in the press conference, but the official news release was actually a lot more ambiguous… Flytrippers reached out to Health Canada media relations to confirm and sadly, they still really didn’t know the answer themselves even as of Friday night (the 25th at 8 PM, less than 3 days before the rule was to take effect).
Anyway… now it’s confirmed. if your flight that enters Canada is the 10th, no matter the time of the flight… you can take your rapid antigen test on the 9th, no matter the time of the test. Simple. Just like the requirement to travel to the United States by plane.
Another confusion was cleared up earlier: During the press conference, they said the rapid antigen test will only be valid if negative, not for the positive test exemption. But in the press release, they initially said the opposite… once again, this was all very clear!
As was the case before, the rules will be exactly the same whether you enter by land or by air.
As was the case before, the negative test must be taken outside of Canada to be valid.
So the only thing changing about the pre-arrival test is that you now have the option of doing a negative rapid antigen test the day of your flight or the day before. You can still do a molecular test in the 72 hours if you prefer (especially in the USA where they are free and quick).
It’s definitely an improvement compared to Canada’s current molecular test requirement.
But it’s extremely disappointing to still have a test requirement when everything will be 100% reopened here and when imaginary lines don’t pose any additional risk at this point according to the public health experts. The virus is already everywhere here…
And it’s certainly not what the World Health Organization’s experts recommend: They recommend eliminating all travel restrictions, even vaccination requirements by the way.
(But following the experts only applies when it doesn’t hurt the government politically: That’s what one of their own MPs has said.)
Anyway, here’s what this change will have in terms of impact.
Benefits of the rapid antigen test:
- Less expensive test (often as little as US$20)
- Less sensitive test (less chance of testing positive)
- Less time to get results (just 15 minutes)
But some disadvantages or issues that worry some travelers would remain:
- The risk of testing positive abroad remains
- The need to find a lab abroad remains
And a new risk is added:
- The risk of having to pay for another test if positive
- While with the molecular test you can just wait 10 full days
That said, it’s already not really complicated to travel during a pandemic as I said before. And after 10 trips in a pandemic, clearly for me, even the current requirement is not a good enough reason not to travel. I love to travel too much.
But with this change, it gives you more options and can make it simpler and easier for some travelers (easier to pay less for the test, easier to find them, and less risky to test positive).
I’ll reiterate that if you’re the least bit prepared and you’ve planned your trip (that’s very basic….), it’s very easy to find tests everywhere, it’s very easy to go to countries where the tests are cheaper, and it’s very easy to find tests that provide results on time.
(There are tests available everywhere, contrary to the myth that comes from I don’t know where.)
That said, us travelers should keep making our voices heard for the elimination of all tests, as recommended by the WHO experts.
Self-isolating while waiting for the arrival test result will no longer be required for those who have been somewhere other than the US in the previous 14 days. Self-isolation is already not required for those who have just been to the USA, I remind you.
Arrival tests are free for travelers… but they cost taxpayers well over 1 billion dollars. Having to get tested twice has been described as “excessive” by the government’s own experts OVER 8 MONTHS AGO. Imagine with omicron!
At least they are reducing the number of arrival tests done. Currently, close to 100% of non-USA travelers are tested, but that will no longer be the case. The minister mentioned 20% in a radio interview.
This obviously applies only to vaccinated travelers, because the unvaccinated Canadians have a mandatory 14-day quarantine (yes, they have always been allowed to enter, it’s just that everyone always mixes up all the rules together).
Special rules for unvaccinated children under 12 years old eliminated
Currently, unvaccinated children cannot go to school or daycare for 14 days after returning from a trip (which is not a quarantine at all, although it is still very, very restrictive and obviously very problematic).
As with many things, this Canadian rule is among the most extremist in the world.
It will be eliminated for children under 12. Those over 12 still have to go through a real 14-day quarantine if they are not vaccinated, as is the case for all unvaccinated children traveling with unvaccinated parents too.
And there are already no special rules for kids who are vaccinated, regardless of their age.
The test on Day 8 for unvaccinated children traveling with vaccinated parents will also be removed, according to the press conference (not mentioned in the press release, but probably.
Global travel advisory eliminated (this was just a recommendation)
The global travel advisory to avoid travel is only a recommendation and it is objectively absurd to avoid travel because of it. You still have the right to think for yourself, it is not illegal yet.
YOU CAN avoid traveling, that’s fine of course (traveling now is certainly not for everyone)…
The advisory is for you to know that there are risks: Evaluate these risks carefully as a responsible adult and decide not to travel if these risks worry you!
But don’t decide not to travel just to blindly follow a recommendation that is not mandatory at all, without even considering anything.
The advisory being lifted will simply make travel insurance simpler as we’ve mentioned many times. A detailed post on that will come soon.
International flights allowed everywhere
Fans of artificial all-inclusive resorts who live in Sault Ste. Marie (YAM), rejoice! There will no longer be a list of airports where international flights must land, it will be open to all once again.
This doesn’t change much for most travelers since the list of airports already included almost every airport served by international flights.
NO other changes
Absolutely nothing else is changing, at least based on the announcement (they may add changes between now and the date; they’ve done that kind of “surprise” easing of restrictions in the past).
But chances are they won’t. They promised further easing of these restrictions in the coming weeks “if the situation gets better” (once again no objective or quantified benchmarks…)
Travel rules change regularly and Flytrippers is following this very closely. As soon as another change is announced, we’ll let you know as we have since the beginning of the pandemic.
Untile then, this sure is disappointing on many fronts:
- Unvaccinated Canadians still can’t board a plane in Canada
- Unlike what the WHO recommends
- Short trips are still not exempt from the test requirement
- Unlike they were in early December
- The waiting period after a positive test abroad is still 11 full days*
- Unlike many places where it’s now 5 days
- Entry by land while positive is still subject to a $5,000 fine
- Unlike anyone who tests positive here who can then go home
- Unvaccinated Canadians still need to quarantine for 14 days
- Unlike pretty much everyone… 14 days doesn’t seem used anywhere else
*Unless you test negative before that of course
At least they didn’t change the definition of “fully vaccinated”: It’s still 2 doses (or 1 dose of Johnson & Johnson) received at least 14 days before, with no expiry date (unlike in a few countries who started doing that).
A step-by-step guide on how to travel
As mentioned, our new section will help you better navigate all this (including with explainer videos), but it’s really not that complicated to travel during a pandemic if you take a few minutes to read.
(Between the two of us, we’ve taken close to 100 different flights and been to 17 countries since August 2020, so it’s certainly doable…)
Here’s how you can travel concretely.
3 sets of rules
There are always the same 3 sets of rules to check for any destination and any trip. It’s still a simple process; just those 3 sets of rules and that’s it!
And they’re likely to be around for a long time, so unless you really don’t like to travel… you need to get used to it and take a few minutes to be independent and prepared! Again, it’s really not that complicated and Flytrippers will help you learn!
Set of rules #1: Boarding a flight in a Canadian airport
Nothing about this changes since the changes are only about entry rules, so:
- You must be fully vaccinated
- Children under 12 years and 4 months are exempt
- No test required, same as since the beginning of the pandemic
There are very few exemptions to this extremist measure that no other country in the world has (or maybe a few small countries, we haven’t checked them all out unlike the other rules because it’s not relevant to Canadian travelers, but we’ve never heard of this elsewhere… what’s for sure is that it’s exceedingly rare at the very least).
Set of rules #2: Entry into your destination country (or countries)
Nothing about this changes since today’s announcement was about Canada of course, so:
- Each country has its own rules
Set of rules #3: Entry into Canada
Here are all the rules as of February 28th based on today’s announcement:
- Vaccination not mandatory, same as since the beginning of the pandemic (for Canadians)
- Pre-arrival test
- Done the day of the flight/entry or the full day before (antigenic)
- Done within 72 hours prior to flight/entry (molecular)
- Exemption for those with a valid positive test
- Exemption for children under the age of 5
- Exemption for travelers just transiting in Canada
- Random testing on arrival
- Free (or rather over $1 billion; paid for by taxpayers)
- No self-isolation required while waiting for results
- Approximately 1 out of every 5 travelers selected
- Declaration in the ArriveCAN app or on the ArriveCAN website to be filled out
- Simple, takes 5 minutes
- Special rules for unvaccinated Canadians
- 14-day quarantine
- Mandatory testing on arrival (Day 1 and Day 8)
We’ll summarize this in a nice infographic and give you more details very soon.
Want to get all coronavirus updates for Canadian travelers?
Canada is finally easing its travel restrictions, but not as much as World Health Organization experts recommend. The pre-arrival test can now be an antigen test, isolation while awaiting results of the arrival test is eliminated, restrictions for unvaccinated kids are elininated, and the travel advisory is eliminated.
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