Indo-Canadians celebrate easier access to testing for travellers from India
Ottawa group petitioned Canada to accept PCR test results from more labs
Many Indo-Canadians are celebrating news that Canada has eased COVID-19 restrictions on travellers from India that allows for easier access to PCR tests.
Until Jan. 28, people travelling from India to Canada were only able to obtain a PCR test from a single lab located in the New Delhi airport.
Canada now accepts results from any lab recognized by the Indian Council of Medical Research, which is welcome news for members of the Kanata Carleton Indo-Canadians Association.
The group's president and founder, Nagmani Sharma, says they lobbied the federal government to make these changes, creating a petition that featured thousands of signatures.
The previous restrictions on a country as populous as India were very difficult on families, he said.
"It was lots of pressure, mental pressure ... financial pressure for people," said Sharma.
"Millions of Indo-Canadians are here are visiting India almost every year."
These restrictions created a bottleneck for people flying to Canada because they would all have to travel to Delhi. For people in Bangalore, Mumbai or Hyderabad, this meant they had to travel thousands of kilometres by train and spend more than 24 hours in transit to get a test.
'A welcome step'
Sharma said it felt unfair Canada had restricted India lab results to a single location while the U.S. and U.K. allowed travellers from India to provide tests from multiple approved labs.
In a tweet last week, High Commissioner of India Ajay Bisaria called this a "welcome step for better mobility between India and Canada."
Before boarding a flight to Canada, all travellers have to provide a negative pre-departure COVID-19 molecular test taken within the last 72 hours. Travellers from India were initially required to show negative results that were no more than 18 hours old, but that requirement has since been removed.
Canada initially banned direct flights from India and Morocco in April and August 2021, respectively, due to high case counts. The testing requirements remained after direct flights resumed in the fall.