Canada to ease travel requirements as COVID cases drop

A US-bound passenger walks into Terminal 3 of Toronto Pearson Airport, days before testing protocols for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) take effect for the United States, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, December 3, 2021. REUTERS/Chris Hellgren

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OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada will facilitate entry for fully vaccinated international travelers starting February 28 as COVID-19 cases decline, allowing rapid antigen testing for travelers in place of a molecular test, officials said on Tuesday.

Federal government ministers at a briefing announced the new measures, which include dropping the mandatory entry test. Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said Canada will also scrap coronavirus testing requirements for fully vaccinated Canadians who make short trips – less than 72 hours – abroad.

“These changes are possible not only because we are past the Omicron peak, but because Canadians across the country have listened to science and experts,” Duclos told reporters.

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About 80% of Canadians have been fully vaccinated, and more than 40% have taken a booster dose, according to the Department of Health.

The global travel advisory for Canadians has also been changed. Previously the government recommended against non-essential travel, now it is urging citizens only to take precautions.

“Although today’s announcement brings us one step closer to where our industry needs to be, in requiring rapid pre-departure antigen tests, the government missed an opportunity to align with other international jurisdictions that have eliminated pre-departure testing requirements for fully vaccinated travelers,” she said. Canadian Roundtable Travel and Tourism Industry Group in a statement.

Several provinces, including Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec and Ontario, Canada’s most populous provinces, announced Monday that they are easing restrictions imposed during the pandemic as coronavirus infection rates drop.

Ontario said it will speed up its plan to remove proof of vaccination requirements and raise pandemic-related capacity limits for many businesses, while western Alberta ended requirements for masks for schoolchildren on Monday. Read more

Demonstrators closed border crossings and paralyzed central Ottawa for weeks, calling on governments to roll back restrictions imposed on the outbreak. Provincial chief ministers denied easing restrictions to appease them, saying instead that restrictions are no longer necessary to contain COVID-19.

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Additional reporting by Steve Shearer in Ottawa, Ismael Shakeel in Bengaluru and Alison Lambert in Montreal; Editing by Grant McCall

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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