Arriving airline passengers will soon be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before entering Canada, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc announced Wednesday (Dec. 30).
The test will need to have been completed 72 hours prior to arrival and must be a PCR test, considered the gold standard of COVID testing. However, having proof of a negative tests will not negate the need for the mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair did not provide an exact date for the new testing requirements to come into effect, but said they would be brought in “quickly.” More information is expected on Thursday.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu said that enforcement of the quarantine, introduced in March, would also be stepped up. Deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo said that travellers entering from the U.K. and South Africa, where more contagious variants of COVID have been found, will be subject to a secondary screening.
“Now is not the time to travel internationally,” Hadju said, noting that travel advisory remains in effect.
Blair said people returning to Canada have both a “legal and moral obligation” to follow quarantine measures and do their utmost to protect others from infection.
Other countries have already brought in a negative test requirement for entry, including Russia, Japan and the Maldives.
Canada is currently in its second wave of the pandemic. The country has had more than 565,506 total confirmed cases and 15,378 deaths. There are at least 72,271 active cases as of Wednesday morning.
According to the Canada Border Services Agency, the number of incoming air passengers for the week of Dec. 14 to 20 was down 90 per cent compared to the same time last year. According to the health officials, law enforcement officials have had to intervene 41,103 times, with compliance being the result 98.8 per cent of the time. There have been 185 verbal warnings, 20 written warnings, 130 tickets and eight charges as a result of non-compliance.
The maximum fine for breaking COVID-19 quarantine rules include a fine of up to $750,000 and imprisonment for up to six months. Anyone whose actions cause a “risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm to another person while wilfully or recklessly contravening [the Quarantine Act] could be fined up to $1 million and imprisoned for up to three years, or both.
The move Wednesday comes as Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are being rolled out across the country. In B.C., 12,000 people have received their first of two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Maj. Gen. Dany Fortin, vice president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, said 1.2 million doses of the two approved vaccines are scheduled to be in provincial hands by the end of January.
Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.