Areas of
Practice

Canada bars more foreign travellers from entry, boosts COVID testing, surveillance at borders

Wednesday, December 01, 2021 @ 1:55 PM | By Cristin Schmitz


Citing the emergence in Canada of six confirmed travel-related cases of the omicron COVID-19 variant, Ottawa has closed the country’s borders to non-Canadian travellers from an additional three African countries, while also mandating COVID testing for all fully vaccinated travellers arriving by air from departure points other than the United States.

On Nov. 30, the list of seven countries with entry prohibitions, that was announced Nov. 26, was expanded to 10 countries, adding Egypt, Nigeria and Malawi. The other listed nations are: Botswana; Eswatini; Lesotho; Mozambique; Namibia; South Africa; and Zimbabwe.

Last week, South Africa was the first country to announced that it had detected within its borders the omicron COVID-19 virus — declared a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization — due to multiple mutations that have raised fears that omicron might be more transmissible than older variants, and that existing vaccines may be less effective. 

Ottawa said in a Nov. 30 press release that, effective Dec. 1, foreign nationals who have been in any of the listed countries within the previous 14 days will not be permitted entry into Canada.

As well, Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and people with status under the Indian Act who have been in the listed countries in the 14 days before travelling to Canada will be required to:
  • Obtain, within 72 hours of departure, a valid negative COVID-19 molecular test in a third country (i.e. not from the listed country) before continuing their journey to Canada,
  • Complete testing upon arrival to Canada, regardless of their vaccination status, or having had a previous history of testing positive for COVID-19,
  • Complete a test on Day 8 after arrival and quarantine for 14 days.
  • Travellers arriving by air will be required to stay in a designated quarantine facility while they await their arrival test result and can travel onward once they receive a negative arrival test result.
  • Travellers arriving by land may be allowed to proceed “directly to their suitable quarantine location.”

However, the government said that if those arriving by land do not have “a suitable and robust quarantine plan” — i.e. where they will not have contact with anyone with whom they haven’t travelled, or do not have private transportation to their place of quarantine — “they will be directed to stay at a designated quarantine facility.”

The government warned of increased scrutiny of quarantine plans for travellers from the listed countries, and “rigorous monitoring to ensure travellers are complying with quarantine measures.”

To that end, the government said the Public Health Agency of Canada is contacting travellers, regardless of their vaccination status or having had a previous history of testing positive for COVID-19, who have entered Canada from the listed countries in the past 14 days “to direct them to be tested and to quarantine while they wait for the results of those tests.”

The government said that its general border testing and surveillance will be adjusted on an ongoing basis, relying on the latest available evidence, to further reduce the risk of importation of the omicron variant.

“In the coming days, all fully vaccinated travellers arriving by air from departure points other than the United States will be subject to arrival testing,” the government announced. 

Addressing the unspecified timing for that measure, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino elaborated in a Dec. 1 scrum with reporters on Parliament Hill, that the mandatory testing for all flights and all passengers, with the exception of those coming from the U.S., “will be coming in the very short term.”

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra also told reporters that Canada’s federal and provincial ministers are discussing as well whether there should be arrival testing for fully vaccinated air travellers from the United States — a decision he said that will be based on epidemiology in that country and around the world.  

“We need to be prepared and ready if we need to adjust that decision to include travellers from the U.S.,” Alghabra said.

The timing of any such decision remains up in the air, “depending on the changing situation, depending on the conditions in the U.S., so it’s still very fluid,” he said. “But if circumstances change, we will change our decision.”

(The White House is also expected to announce new border measures this week).

The federal government said that fully vaccinated travellers will be required to quarantine while they await the results of their arrival test, while unvaccinated travellers, with a right of entry to Canada, will continue to be tested when they arrive and on Day 8, and to quarantine for 14 days.

Those arriving by air will be required to stay in a designated quarantine facility “or other suitable location” while they await the result of their on-arrival test.

Effective Nov. 30, fully vaccinated Canadian citizens, permanent residents or individuals registered under the Indian Act who depart and re-enter Canada by land or by air within 72 hours of leaving the country do not have to provide a pre-entry molecular test result, the government said.

The government called the new requirements it announced “a near-term, precautionary circuit breaker, which will allow us to assess the evolving situation and determine any additional measures going forward to safeguard Canadians’ health.”

If you have any information, story ideas or news tips for The Lawyer’s Dailyplease contact Cristin Schmitz at Cristin.schmitz@lexisnexis.ca or call 613 820-2794.