Following weeks of declining COVID-19 caseloads and hospitalizations, Canada is moving to ease entry for fully vaccinated international travellers on Feb. 28. Additionally, travellers will only need to take a rapid antigen test instead of the more thorough molecular test, which takes longer to complete, government officials said Tuesday.
The eased measures come in the wake of widespread Freedom Convoy protests throughout the country and growing discontent with pandemic restrictions. The measures, which includes dropping compulsory testing on entry, was announced by federal government ministers. Fully vaccinated Canadians will also not be required to test for COVID-19 if they take short trips — less than 72 hours — overseas, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos stated.
“These changes are possible not only because we have passed the peak of Omicron, but because Canadians across the country have listened to the science and to experts,” Duclos said at a briefing.
Around 80% of Canadians are fully vaccinated with two shots of the vaccine, and over 40% have also taken a booster shot, according to health ministry data.
In addition to the new measures, the global travel advisory for Canadians is also being changed to no longer recommend against non-essential travel. Canadians will only be told to take precautions instead of advised against travelling.
“Though today's announcement brings us one step closer to where our industry needs to be, in requiring pre-departure rapid antigen tests, the government missed an opportunity to align with other international jurisdictions that removed pre-departure test requirements for fully vaccinated travellers,” the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable industry group said in a statement, per Reuters.
The move to ease travel restrictions comes as several provinces, including Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec and Ontario are lifting various instructions imposed during the pandemic.
On Monday, Ontario said it will speed up its plan to remove proof-of-vaccination requirements and lift capacity limits for many types of businesses. Quebec has also announced plans to end its vaccine passport system on March 14.