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Canada eases cross-border vaccine requirement

Toronto Pearson Airport
Toronto Pearson Airport
COVID-19 vaccine requirements have eased for travelers through Toronto Pearson Airport and other entry points in Canada.

COVID-19 restrictions at the Canada-U.S. border have been eased. Fully vaccinated travelers no longer need a pre-arrival PCR test to enter Canada.

For the past year, travelers coming into Canada by air, and more recently by land, were required to show a negative PCR test. The aim was mainly to curb the spread of the omicron variant, which led to a surge in cases and hospitalizations.

Now fully vaccinated travelers can show proof of an antigen test taken the day before their flight or arrival at a land border crossing.

When he made the announcement, federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said Canada had passed the peak of the latest wave of the omicron variant and there are tools in place to safeguard the public.

Jean-Yves Duclos, wearing a blue suit, white shirt and red tie with a conference table behind him.
Jean-Yves Duclos

“These tools include a strong surveillance system, a highly vaccinated population, continued access to vaccines, access to therapeutics both in and outside our hospital system and increasing access to rapid tests,” Duclos said.

The change to drop the expensive PCR tests in favor of the much cheaper antigen tests came as welcome news to many travelers.

“I think that it’s a lot easier to travel," said one traveler. "I think rapid tests are a lot more accessible and more affordable, as well."

"I think if they’re as reliable as the PCR, then it’s going to make things more accessible to people who haven’t seen their families in a while,” said another traveler.

The antigen test, however, must be administered by a laboratory or healthcare service. In addition, fully vaccinated travelers may be randomly selected to take an on-arrival test, but won’t need to quarantine while they await results.

The rules will remain in place for unvaccinated travelers. They will still have to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival, quarantine for 14 days and take another test midway through their quarantine. Unvaccinated foreign nationals will also be denied entry into Canada.

Some are still wary of the changes, not sure the federal government isn’t moving too quickly. And some doctors question whether the rapid antigen tests are going to help detect very many cases, particularly with the omicron variant.