COVID-19 travel rule change: Canada eases travel restrictions, removes COVID-19 PCR testing requirement

The Canadian government has announced that the mandatory PCR COVID-19 testing requirement for Canadians to travel back to the country will be removed for fully vaccinated travellers, at the end of the month.

As of Feb. 28 at 12:01 a.m. ET, these vaccinated travellers will be able to take a rapid antigen pre-arrival test, which is cheaper than the molecular test and results can be obtained in minutes. The antigen test must be administered by a laboratory, healthcare setting or telehealth service, no more than 24 hours before a travellers scheduled flight or arrival at Canada's land border.

Travellers can still choose to take a pre-arrival PCR test but those rules will not change, the test must be taken up to 72 hours before entering Canada.

Individuals who have received at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine (or one dose of the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine) are considered fully vaccinated. The second dose must have been administered at least 15 calendar days before arriving in Canada.

Canada will also continue random testing of vaccinated travellers when they arrive from any country. Anyone who is randomly selected will not have to quarantine while waiting for their result.

Additionally, Canada is lifting the isolation rule for children under the age of 12 who are not fully vaccinated, who are travelling with fully vaccinated adults.

Unvaccinated travellers will still have to take a PCR COVID-19 test when they arrive in Canada and quarantine for 14 days.

On Feb. 28 at 4:00 p.m. ET, Transport Canada’s Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) will expire, meaning that international passenger flights can land at all remaining Canadian airports that usually receive international travellers.

"The removal of travel barriers for fully-vaccinated travellers and families is a positive step forward for our industry; we have been advocating tirelessly for these changes on behalf of our guests and our communities," a statement from Angela Avery, WestJet executive vice president of external affairs reads.

"As a fully-vaccinated industry, we have worked with public health authorities and all governments to curb COVID-19 and today's announcement validates that travel has never been a significant vector of transmission."

The Canadian government will adjust its Travel Health Notice from a Level 3, which means it is no longer recommended that Canadians avoid non-essential travel, but federal officials advise Canadians to still be cautious when leaving the country.

"Canadians should still exercise caution when travelling abroad," Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health said Tuesday. "There is the still real risk becoming sick or stranded while abroad and having to extend their trip."

"Travel is safe yet risk remains," Randy Boissonnault, Minister of Tourism added.

All travellers must continue to submit their mandatory travel information through the ArriveCAN app or website.

Omar Alghabra, Minister of Transport, teased that more information on testing requirements for cruise travellers will be received "very soon," in advance of the spring season.