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Canada's travel rules changed Friday. Here's what you need to know

As of April 1, fully vaccinated travellers entering Canada will notice some changes. Here's a look at what you need to know.

As of April 1, eligible travellers no longer need a PCR or antigen COVID-19 test to enter Canada

Beginning Friday, fully vaccinated travellers entering Canada by land or air will no longer need a pre-arrival COVID-19 test. (Rod Gurdebeke/The Canadian Press)

As of today, April 1, fully vaccinated travellers entering Canada will no longer be required to provide a pre-entry COVID-19 test. 

The federal government announced the change in March, citing vaccination uptake and stable COVID-19 case counts at the time. 

Here's a look at the changes you can consider before packing your bags. 

What are the changes for vaccinated travellers?

Fully vaccinated travellers no longer need a molecular COVID-19 test (such as a PCR test) or an antigen test to get into Canada by land, air or water.

Before April 1, travellers were required to get a test abroad to enter the country. 

Border mayors, tourism leaders, and individuals have been calling on the government to drop the requirement for months, saying it was a major barrier for business and families to cross the border. 

Who is considered fully vaccinated?

A fully vaccinated traveller means you must have received at least two doses of a COVID-19 accepted vaccine or at least one dose of the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

You are also considered fully vaccinated if you have had a mix of two accepted COVID-19 vaccines. 

You must have had the second dose at least 14 days before entering Canada.

While you no longer need a COVID-19 test, anyone exhibiting symptoms will still not be allowed to cross into Canada.

The vaccines accepted by Canada for travel are:

  • AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD (ChAdOx1-S, Vaxzevria, AZD1222).
  • Bharat Biotech (Covaxin, BBV152 A, B, C).
  • Janssen/Johnson & Johnson.
  • Moderna (Spikevax, mRNA-1273) including for children 6 to 11 years old.
  • Novavax (NVX-COV2373, Nuvaxovid, Covovax).
  • Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty, tozinameran, BNT162b2) including for children 5 to 11.
  • Sinopharm BIBP (BBIBP-CorV).
  • Sinovac (CoronaVac, PiCoVacc).

Do I still need to use the ArriveCAN app?

Yes, this requirement has not changed. 

Anyone entering Canada, including fully vaccinated travellers, must complete a questionnaire on the ArriveCAN app or on the government's website within 72 hours before entering Canada. Travellers will answer a series of questions and must upload digital proof of vaccination in English or French. 

The government warns of third-party or false apps. You can find the ArriveCAN page here

Will you escape testing altogether? 

While there is no longer a pre-arrival test requirement, some travellers may be randomly selected for a COVID-19 test. 

A border services officer will tell you if you have been selected, and this includes those who are fully vaccinated. 

If selected, you may be given a take-home test  — often the only option at the land border — or you could be sent to a nurse if arriving at an airport. Travellers collect tests or go for swabs, then continue on to their final destinations.

Fully vaccinated Canadian travellers entering the country may still be randomly selected for a COVID-19 test. At land borders, this will likely be a take-home test. (Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)

Travellers coming from abroad no longer need to quarantine while waiting for test results. The government said this testing will help track the arrival of variants to Canada. 

If you're fully vaccinated and travelling to the U.S. by land or ferry, a test isn't required. The U.S. dropped its testing requirements for land-based travellers last October.

However, if you are heading to another country, you may be required to take a test depending on that country's current guidelines. 

What about unvaccinated travellers (including kids)?

Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated Canadian travellers must still get tested.

They'll get a molecular test on arrival and on the eighth day after arrival. These travellers must quarantine for 14 days — regardless of their test results during that period.

The Canadian government has outlined three accepted types of test and that specific conditions that apply to each.

Children under five years old do not need a pre-entry test. 

Generally speaking, unvaccinated foreign nationals are not allowed to travel to Canada. There are some very limited exceptions.

Those 12 years of age plus four months or older who are not considered fully vaccinated still cannot board a train, plane or ferry in Canada.

Medevac flights and private flights that do not require access to an airport with a vaccine requirement are excluded. 

Is this change permanent?

It is possible Canada could bring back pre-arrival COVID-19 testing, and it has happened before. 

Last fall, those travelling to the U.S. for 72 hours or under were exempted from providing a pre-entry test. But when the Omicron variant surged, the government walked back that decision. 

COVID-19 indicators in some parts of Canada, like Ontario, are trending upward in recent weeks following loosened restrictions and possibly increased travel due to the March break period. 

With files from John Paul Tasker

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