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pre travel covid testing

Negative pre travel COVID testing mandatory before boarding plane to Canada

Canada has mandated that everyone over the age of five flying into Canada must now have pre travel COVID testing to prove they don’t have COVID-19 and show the results of one of two approved tests. Under a new interim order issued under the Quarantine Act by Health Minister Patty Hajdu, starting January 7, 2021, regardless of citizenship, all travellers 5 years and over, flying to Canada must provide proof of a negative laboratory LAMP or PCR test result for COVID-19 to the airline prior to boarding a flight to Canada.

The two types of COVID-19 tests that are being accepted are:

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

The pre travel COVID testing must be conducted within 72 hours of the traveller’s scheduled departure to Canada. Failure to do so will result in a denial of boarding.

All travellers coming to Canada, regardless of citizenship, will be required to have this proof in hand at the time of boarding. Failure to do so will mean an automatic denial of boarding by the air carrier operating the flight to Canada.

A negative laboratory test (paper or electronic proof of result) must be presented by the traveller to the airline or private operator prior to coming to Canada. The negative laboratory test result must include the following data elements:

  • Traveller name and date of birth
  • Name and civic address of the laboratory/clinic/facility that administered the test
  • The date on which the test was conducted
  • The method of test conducted (PCR or LAMP)
  • The test result

Once travellers arrive in Canada, Canada Border Services officers will question and observe them for any indication that they may be ill. These travellers will be referred to Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) officials for further assessment, screening and questioning. Officers will apply great scrutiny to travellers’ quarantine plans while ensuring that they are admissible to Canada. PHAC works closely with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and provincial law enforcement agencies to verify the compliance of returning travellers.

Quotes on new pre travel COVID testing rule

“The COVID 19 pandemic is far from over. 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.”
Minister of Transport, The Honourable Marc Garneau 

“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. 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.” 
 Minister of Health, The Honourable Patty Hajdu 

Pre travel COVID testing – Limited exceptions

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) states on its webpage that there are time-limited flexibilities for travellers departing from some countries in recognition of the need for testing systems to adjust. Travellers departing from Saint Pierre et Miquelon are exempt from the requirement to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test until January 14, and travellers departing from Haiti, until January 21, 2021, but they are strongly encouraged to get a COVID-19 test once they arrive in Canada. Travellers departing from the Caribbean or South America can use tests conducted within 96 hours of departure (instead of 72 hours) until January 14, 2021.

There are also a limited number of exceptions where an individual is not required to show proof of a negative test. These are:

  • children who are four years of age or younger (i.e., children who are five on the day of their travel must have proof of a negative COVID-19 test);
  • air crew members or a person who seeks to enter Canada only to become such a crew member;
  • transiting passengers (not entering Canada through a border port);
  • emergency, law enforcement or border personnel;
  • specific individuals or groups identified by Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer or the Minister of Health; and
  • Individuals or a group of individuals that have been granted an extra-ordinary exemption from Transport Canada.

Quarantine still mandatory on arrival

IRCC reiterates that anyone who receives a negative test result and is authorized to enter Canada must still complete the full, mandatory 14-day quarantine, unless exempted under the Quarantine Act.

Travellers are reminded that ongoing vigilance is still required despite a negative pre travel COVID testing.

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

All existing restrictions to travel to Canada from the United States and other countries by foreign nationals remain in place.

Checklist for travellers to Canada

  1. Travellers entering Canada are subject to COVID-19 entry screening, regardless of their country of origin or mode of entry.
  2. Travellers must install the ArriveCAN mobile application prior to travelling to Canada. They must provide personal information as well as their flight details. They are also required to complete a daily self-assessment on the application.
  3. Travellers must have a negative LAMP or PCR test for COVID-19 obtained up to three days prior to travel. Failure to do so will result in a denial of boarding.
  4. Travellers must have a 14-day quarantine plan. They must know how they intend to reach their place of quarantine and how they intend to obtain essential items such as food, groceries or medicine.
  5. Travellers must confirm arrival at their quarantine or isolation location within 48 hours.
  6. Travellers must complete daily COVID-19 symptom self-assessments during their 14-day quarantine or isolation period.

See also Travellers to Canada now required to have a negative COVID-19 test.