OTTAWA — The federal government will announce changes to COVID-19 prevention measures at the Canadian border "very soon," Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said Tuesday.
The government has faced mounting pressure for weeks to do away with a requirement for fully vaccinated travellers into Canada to provide a negative molecular COVID-19 test.
For travellers making only a short jaunt over the border, the test can be completed in Canada before the trip takes place — drawing even more ire from travellers and the tourism sector.
The rule is part of an order-in-council that will expire on Sunday.
Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam has defended the test requirement in the past, saying it provides another layer of protection at the border and prevents travellers from unwittingly importing cases into Canada.
But lately, she has indicated a change may be in the works.
"That requirement is being actively reviewed, I’m sure there will be further information to come," Tam said at a briefing Friday,
After meeting with fellow cabinet ministers Tuesday, Duclos said the government plans to make an announcement on the border in the coming days.
"Nov. 21 is the time at which these orders-in-council must be renewed and with the renewal will come announcements," he said.
As for when travellers will get the update, the minister would only say that it would be "very soon."
The test requirement for vaccinated travellers at the Canada-U.S border has drawn criticism from business leaders, mayors of border communities, members of the tourism industry and travellers themselves.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said provincial leaders were to discuss halting the COVID-19 test requirements at the border with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a first ministers' conference call Tuesday evening.
"The consensus is a lot of premiers want to see that," Ford said at a news conference Tuesday.
After the conference call, the Prime Minister's Office confirmed the border testing issue was discussed and said premiers expressed "wide support" for what the government is planning to do.
However, the government is not expected to simply eliminate the test requirement in one fell swoop. Rather, it is expected to phase it out gradually, starting with removing the test requirement for people who are out of the country for less than 72 hours.
The Prime Minister's Office said premiers agreed with Trudeau that the pandemic is showing worrying signs of taking off again and that they need to remain vigilant.
The Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable has scheduled a news conference Wednesday, with business leaders and the Canadian and American Chambers of Commerce, to again pressure the government to do away with the test requirement.
The group says the rule is keeping American and Mexican visitors at home and hurting the trade and economic partnership in North America.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 16, 2021.
Laura Osman, The Canadian Press