July 17, 2022 -- Canada is reinstating its mandatory random COVID-19 testing program for international passengers arriving at the country’s four major airports.
Canada paused mandatory random testing on June 11 as part of a broader strategy to transition testing of air travelers outside of the airports. However, random testing will resume on Tuesday in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary, according to a notice from the Public Health Agency of Canada.
“We need to keep border testing measures in place because that is how we track importation of the COVID-19 virus, and of new variants of concern,” Jean-Yves Duclos, the federal health minister, said in the statement.
“We will keep adapting our border measures to balance the need to protect Canadians while supporting our economic recovery,” he said.
The move comes as Canadian airports grapple with the same issues affecting air travel worldwide, including staff shortages, cancellations and delays. At Canada’s four major airports, between 10% and 27% of flights were delayed by more than 15 minutes in June, according to The New York Times.
Canada requires travelers arriving from other countries to be fully vaccinated, which means they received a primary series of COVID-19 shots at least 14 days before arriving. Travelers who aren’t vaccinated because they are exempt must test for COVID-19 for 10 days after arriving. Any travelers who test positive or develop symptoms are required to isolate for 10 days.
More than 80% of Canadians are fully vaccinated, and about half have received a booster dose, according to the country’s latest federal data. About 9% have received two boosters, including 45% of ages 70 and older.
However, the contagious BA.5 Omicron subvariant is spreading across Canada, accounting for more than 40% of the country’s new cases in June, the newspaper reported. Several Canadians provinces are facing another wave of infections due to BA.5. Public health experts have cited the subvariant’s ability to evade antibodies from previous infections and vaccines.
All testing for air travelers to Canada — including fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated or unvaccinated people — will be completed outside of airports, the public health notice said. Testing will occur either during an in-person appointment at a testing provider location or a virtual appointment with a self-swab test. Travelers who aren’t fully vaccinated, unless exempt, must test on the first and eighth days of their mandatory 14-day quarantine.
“Moving testing outside of airports will support testing for travelers arriving by air while still being able to monitor and quickly respond to new variants of concern, or changes to the epidemiological situation,” according to the notice. “Mandatory random testing continues at land border points of entry, with no changes.”
Air travelers who are selected for mandatory random testing will receive an email notification within 15 minutes of completing their customs declaration, the public notice said. The email will contain information to help travelers schedule a test with a testing provider in their region.
All travelers are required to use ArriveCAN, either through the free mobile app or website, to provide mandatory travel information before and after their arrival.