Ottawa will begin requiring negative COVID-19 tests from travellers on Canadian-bound flights from China – a policy shift that joins other Western nations as coronavirus cases spike in the East Asian country.
The test requirement applies to all travellers boarding flights from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau as of Jan. 5, according to a Saturday statement from the Public Health Agency of Canada. The update is similar to those in Britain, France and the United States, and follows a surge of COVID-19 cases in China after Beijing rapidly moved away from a longstanding zero-COVID policy.
Officials in China are reporting thousands of new cases a day and very few deaths, but those numbers don’t match reports from around the country of mass infections and busy crematoriums.
The Canadian government said its new mandate will be in place for 30 days before being reassessed, and the rules will be in place for all travellers older than two years of age and originating from China, regardless of nationality or vaccination status. It added that tests must be taken no more than two days before departure.
“Our actions continue to be guided by prudence and we will not hesitate to adjust measures to protect the health and safety of Canadians,” Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said in the PHAC statement.
Australia said on Sunday it would implement a similar requirement starting Jan. 5.
1/2 The Government of Canada will require all travellers (regardless of nationality or vaccination status) taking flights to Canada originating from China, Hong Kong or Macao to provide a negative #COVID19 test before boarding, effective January 5, 2023. pic.twitter.com/0W1gNpXfE1— Health Canada and PHAC (@GovCanHealth) December 31, 2022
Earlier in December, the federal government also posted a “level two” travel advisory for China ahead of the Chinese New Year, and recommended people take extra health precautions as the country lifts COVID-19 restrictions.
On Friday, the World Health Organization urged Chinese officials to regularly share specific and real-time COVID-19 data. The WHO previously has said that China may be struggling to keep a tally of infections, and the U.S. government has attributed its test requirement to a lack of information around variants in the East Asian country and concern that the surge of new cases could result in new mutations being developed.
However, infectious-diseases specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch equated Canada’s new testing policy as jumping on a “bandwagon of performative measures.”
“Targeted travel policy focused on the UK (Alpha variant), India (Delta variant), and several countries in Africa (Omicron variant) did not keep Canadians any safer. This policy will be more of the same,” he wrote on Twitter.
With a report from Reuters