Flight crews will be one of the few exempt from a new pre-flight COVID-19 test required for all incoming air travellers as of Thursday (Jan. 7), the day the ban against travel from the U.K. will lapse.
Federal ministers began to unveil details of the plan, first announced Dec. 30, in a press conference Wednesday (Jan. 6).
According to Transportation Minister Marc Garneau, the rules will apply to all incoming non-essential air travellers, including Canadians and foreign nationals, who are five years of age or older. The test must be a COVID-19 molecular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test that is taken within 72 hours of boarding a flight to Canada.
According to Transport Canada, the test must be conducted by a lab accredited by an external organization such as a government, a professional association or ISO accreditation. Incoming travellers can be refused boarding by an airline if they don’t have electronic or written proof of an approved test. Vaccinated travellers must still get a test, Garneau said, because the science is still unclear on whether a vaccinated person can still spread the virus.
Travellers from Saint Pierre et Miquelon are exempt until Jan. 14 and those from Haiti are exempt until Jan. 21 due to lack of testing capacity.
Travellers from the following countries can take a test up to 96 hours, not 72 hours, prior to boarding their flight until Jan. 14 because of scarce testing capacity:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Bonaire, Saint Eustatius & Saba
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- St. Lucia
- Saint Vincent and Grenadines
- Saint Maarten
- Trinidad and Tobago
- Turks and Caicos Islands
Travellers will also be subject to other health screening measures, both before they board their flights and when they arrive, including having to provide a quarantine plan and getting their temperature taken. All non-essential travellers must still quarantine for 14 days, regardless of test results. Travellers coming from countries where approved PCR testing is not available will have to report to an official Public Health Agency of Canada quarantine facility.
“We strongly, strongly, strongly recommend to avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada,” Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne said.
Groups that are exempt include flight crew or people coming to Canada to become flight crew and emergency service providers. People coming from countries where it is difficult to obtain a test may taken one up to 96 hours prior to boarding a flight to Canada.
While federal ministers said they cannot stop people from travelling altogether, they warned that the government will not be running any more repatriation flights as it did at the start of the pandemic. Travellers must pay for their own COVID tests and it is unlikely the government will cover any costs to do with the virus and non-essential travel outside the country.
The International Air Transport Association, the trade association for the world’s airlines, expressed “deep frustration” with the new rules. The association said the airline industry has been calling for pre-flight testing for months to re-open borders and cease quarantine measures, it said it was “callous and impractical to impose this new requirement on travellers at such short notice.”
However, Garneau said that the federal government has been in touch with airlines over the past week to work out the details.
“We are confident that they will rise to the occasion,” he said.
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