This spring, travellers to Canada can expect new, less stringent rules about who must be tested before arrival. As of April 25, children aged five to 11 don’t need a test, even if they’re unvaccinated or partly vaccinated, as long as they’re with a fully vaccinated adult. That expands on April 1′s changes, which exempted fully vaccinated travellers from tests.
For Canadian citizens and permanent residents who have had their shots, it’s still essential to have valid proof of vaccination when travelling, and to follow the latest guidelines about testing and self-isolation when gathering with family and friends. Here’s what you need to know.
Canada’s latest travel rules
What does ‘fully vaccinated’ mean, officially?
For the federal government’s purposes, “fully vaccinated” means you’ve had the basic doses for one of the COVID-19 vaccines approved in Canada – two shots for Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Novavax or Medicago, one shot for Johnson & Johnson – and it’s been 14 days or more since your last dose. Canada also accepts international travellers who are fully dosed with some drugs approved abroad, such as the Indian-made Bharat Biotech or Chinese-made Sinopharm and Sinovac. Third or fourth doses, also called boosters, are not yet part of the official definition of full vaccination, but getting them is a good idea regardless because they improve your protection against COVID-19, according to the National Advisory Committee on Immunization. Here are the provincial websites where you can book a shot, if you haven’t already.
International arrivals: Who has to be tested
Air travel: There’s an app called ArriveCAN for providing mandatory travel information (make sure you’ve updated to the latest version), as well as a short questionnaire to address any questions about your eligibility to fly. Since April 1, fully vaccinated travellers have not needed to take a COVID-19 test before arrival. That expands to children under 12 on April 25: As long as they’re with a fully vaccinated adult, even unvaccinated or partly vaccinated children can come through without tests.
Land travel: Similar to air travellers, fully vaccinated people driving into Canada from the U.S. no longer have to take a COVID-19 test. Previously, travellers could either take a PCR test or rapid test that was authorized by the country in which it was purchased and was administered by a laboratory, health-care entity or telehealth service.
Will rapid antigen tests help me to travel more safely?
A rapid antigen test isn’t the same as the molecular, or PCR (polymerase chain reaction), type of test. PCRs are accurate about 98 per cent of the time, but they’re more time- and labour-intensive: A technician has to give you a nasal swab that’s sent to a lab and analyzed.
Antigen self-testing kits can be used at home within minutes, but they’re anywhere from 50 to 95 per cent accurate. Antigen tests can be a good idea if you’re travelling domestically, or even just gathering locally with family or friends. Some provinces offer tests to the public for free, while in others, you have to buy them from stores, pharmacies or an online retailer.
On the pandemic
Compiled by Globe staff
With reports from Evan Annett, Marieke Walsh, Laura Stone, Steven Chase, Patrick White and The Canadian Press
Know what is happening in the halls of power with the day’s top political headlines and commentary as selected by Globe editors (subscribers only). Sign up today.