Finally some good news for travellers and the travel industry: you no longer need a pre-arrival COVID test if you’re fully vaccinated.
By Deborah Sanborn | Outpost Travel Health | March 22, 2022 | updated June 2022
(feature photo: Simon Vaughan/Outpost)
Well, finally some good news for travellers, travel operators, and the tourism industry in general: as of today (April 1, 2022), the federal government will no longer require people coming into Canada by air, land or water to undergo a pre-arrival COVID test — a condition of travel the industry has long wanted eliminated for vaccinated people.
That means people entering Canada by air or land who are deemed “fully vaccinated” will no longer need to produce a negative PCR (molecular test) or rapid COVID antigen test before re-entering the country, or will no longer have to quarantine while waiting for the results if administered at point of crossing.
“As I’ve already mentioned in the past, we are in a much better position today than in 2020,” Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos said when making the announcement. “High vaccination rates, and strong adherence to public health measures have pushed us through the peak of the omicron wave.”
Moreover, he added, “we have more tools, like widely available rapid tests and a range of new treatments, that can help some patients from getting seriously ill,” even if they get COVID, he added.
The lifting of the testing requirement only applies to what the federal government calls “fully vaccinated people,” and in Canada at this time (spring 2022) that’s still defined as having two primary doses.
At Outpost, we’re absolutely recommending you get fully vaccinated against COVID if you plan to travel (and indeed, any disease a travel health clinic recommends you need for the destination you’re going to), especially if you’re getting on a plane, train (here’s the place to find the latest rules for COVID immunization status and air travel), bus, or boat, or if you’re road tripping in a packed van with friends. We just can’t say this often enough: it’s about protecting fellow travellers, industry professionals who encounter travellers by the bucket load, and local people and communities who’ve been kind enough to invite you in.
Keep in mind, the definition of “fully vaccinated” will likely be rethought or adapted over time. Here in Canada, health authorities have already recommended a booster dose (a third dose) of COVID vaccine for continued immunity. And more boosters will likely be necessary if the situation changes, like another outbreak occurs or new variants emerge, which seems highly likely as the virus causing COVID-19 naturally evolves. And if the science decrees we need them: studies are already showing that booster doses will likely be needed to retain an immunity to COVID.
“We should keep encouraging Canadians to get a booster dose as a way to broaden and secure their protection against the virus,” Duclos stated — which for travellers seems especially wise, especially if you’re planning to get the heck out of dodge this year because two years of homestay has been enough. Unfortunately, we are not quite through this global pandemic yet.
Duclos also stated that the government is working with international partners to reach some form of consensus on what it means to be fully vaccinated — which leads to the point that you need to know what the COVID-vaccination requirements are in the destination you’re travelling to. Some countries (like France) have already changed the definition of “fully-vaccinated” to include a booster (third) dose, and that means you likely won’t be allowed in with just two primary doses (again, in Canada currently it’s two primary doses).
The big takeaway for travellers is, if you’re planning now for a trip down the road, you need to keep abreast of both your domestic but also the global COVID situation, and of the legal definition of full COVID vaccination at any given point in time, especially as it effects if can you can fly or ride a train or bus. (An appointment at a travel health clinic can help with that.) You don’t want to arrive at an airport just to find you can’t board your plane!
The travel industry, of course, has been calling on the federal government to eliminate pre-arrival testing for fully-vaccinated travellers for some time — many felt continued restrictions were hampering efforts to revitalize the travel economy; specifically, the cost of and time it takes to get a test or its results, which were considered big disincentives for many to travel.
All of this hopefully means that travel just might be getting back to normal — well, maybe a newer normal, though you need to keep in mind random COVID testing on arriving passengers will still be done. (But if you’re randomly tested and fully vaccinated, you’ll no longer have to quarantine to await results as you had to in the past).
And — this is important — all people coming into Canada must use the pre-arrival ArriveCAN app, “to provide mandatory travel information before and after your entry into Canada.” (Click on the link for details.) And, the federal government is requiring that you wear a “well-constructed and well-fitting mask” for 14 days/2 weeks upon entry into Canada (both indoors and outdoors), on the chance you were exposed to COVID and become symptomatic (something done on good faith by you, traveller).
“After two years of following individual public health measures, people in Canada know what to do to keep themselves and each other safe,” Duclos stated — which almost seemed the most important thing he said when making the announcement. As of March 2022, 85 percent of eligible Canadians have one dose of the vaccine, about 81 percent have two, and about 47 percent have three — and it seems fair to say (as Duclos did) that our high rate of vaccination is the reason we can work towards to business as usual.
As of this date, about 37,000 people have died of COVID in Canada since the virus first landed here. As we’ve said before, microbes are spectacular travellers — they latch onto us and do it to survive, and we unwittingly transport them around the world. So travellers have a unique responsibility to do their best to stop that from happening.
We’ve learned valuable lessons from this terrible pandemic — mostly, that indeed we are in this together and have to be good team thinkers. So: follow the science and stay informed; heed expert advice and go immunized; treat the communities you’re travelling to like you would your loved ones. Individual effort is the foundation of global well-being.
Finally, a closing reminder that before you travel anywhere, we highly recommend you book an appointment with a local travel health clinic. There’s myriad of diseases or hazards to watch out for and be protected from in any given destination — many caused by microbes and insects native to a region which can be fatal. Talking to a travel-health expert at a specialized clinic — many of whom are passionate and glad to take time with you, especially now! — is a great place to begin planning any trip.
This information is a guideline only. Always (always!) get individual medical advice from your doctor, a travel health doctor, or at a travel health clinic before travelling. In fact, we always advise that your first point of planning for any trip should be booking an appointment with your family doctor or at a travel health clinic (which specialize in destination health and safety info, and requirements). Be advised too, that some destination-specific vaccines or preventatives (such as for malaria or traveller’s diarrhea) may require multiple doses, and thus require days/weeks/months of spacing between. So, when it comes to travel and health, start your planning sooner than later!