Are you rethinking your holiday travel plans due to Canada's new travel advisory?
While Canadians are still permitted to travel outside of the country over the holiday season, the federal government stresses that the rapid spread of the recently discovered Omicron variant poses an imminent threat to public safety.
The Government of Canada now advises against all non-essential travel outside of the country until further notice, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos told reporters in a press briefing Wednesday (Dec. 15) in Ottawa.
"To those who were planning to travel, I say very clearly: now is not the time to travel," he said. "The rapid spread of the Omicron variant on a global scale makes us fear the worst for Canadians that may think of travelling.
"Travelling Canadians could contract the virus or get stranded abroad."
In terms of arrival testing, Canada will continue to expand its arrival testing program to test as many travellers as possible upon arrival as soon as possible, added Duclos. The measure will be in place for a period of four weeks and the program will be reassessed after that time.
"We know that this may sound very drastic to those listening, but we must avoid overloading our hospital system and our healthcare workers," he emphasized.
"I know we are all tired of this pandemic but I must call on the solidarity of all Canadians. Our governments do have a role to play but as citizens, we also have one to play."
What does the new advisory mean for Canadians who decide to travel?
The new advisory takes a stronger stance than the one published shortly after the emergence of the Omicron variant, urging Canadians to be aware that travel to an area with Omicron could hamper their ability to return to Canada.
The federal government underscores that countries around the world are updating their entry and exit requirements and advisories can change quickly.
Duclos highlighted that the "situation abroad is already dire in many places" and "is going to get worse very quickly."
Once travellers leave Canada, "there is very little we can do to help them," he said.
Many foreign governments are implementing strict travel restrictions due to spread of the Omicron variant and international transportation options may be limited. As a result, you may have difficulty returning to Canada.
Local authorities abroad may impose control measures suddenly, including movement restrictions such as lockdowns. In some countries, you may have limited access to timely and appropriate health care should you become ill.
What should I do if I have to travel while the non-essential travel advisory is in place?
The federal government advises travellers to check Canada's entry requirements before they leave the country and while they are away. Additionally, travellers should visit a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic at least six weeks before they leave.
Travellers should monitor the COVID-19 situation in their destination, "including at the local level." Rules and regulations may vary drastically in different countries and within regions of individual countries, too.
Ensure that you have a robust and comprehensive travel insurance plan that will cover you for COVID-19-related medical expenses, other non-COVID-19 emergency-related expenses, and trip interruption (i.e. having to re-book a cancelled flight due to a pandemic-related lockdown).
Travellers will also need to submit their proof of vaccination, travel information, contact details, and quarantine plan into the ArriveCAN app.
Citizen Care Health Solutions is a Toronto-based company that provides COVID-19 testing to travellers and keeps them informed with current travel updates through its digital platform. Chief Executive Operator Carl Demarco tells Vancouver Is Awesome that the new travel rules do not provide a great deal of clarity for people hoping to travel internationally during a time when so many Canadians have booked trips. For those who elect to travel over the holiday season, he underscores that they must prudently check the evolving COVID-19 situation at home and in their destination.
"As indicated by recent announcements, advisories can change from day to day – so it is vitally important that travellers track their border crossing and testing requirements. Thankfully, there is technology available that can aid in this," he said.
"I would advise them to thoroughly do their research, be prepared for possible delays and hiccups, and arm themselves with the right tools that can help them re-book flights or rental cars, or source and book appropriate testing, if they do face a delay or other type of travel disruption."
Do I need a COVID-19 test to travel?
The Government of Canada is testing incoming international travellers for coronavirus at the airport as an extra precaution following rising concerns over the Omicron variant. You will also require a negative result from a PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival to Canada.
The federal government has released four infographics that demonstrate what protocol vaccinated versus unvaccinated travellers must follow to enter Canada.
There are several clinics in the Lower Mainland you can visit to obtain the negative coronavirus test result that you may require to visit other countries.
COVID-19 testing for travel may cost upwards of $150 CAD per person, although prices vary. Find out more information about the process and some local companies that provide the tests.
For testing from the comfort of your home, a Canadian company sells portable self-administered COVID-19 molecular and antigen test kits to avoid the hassle of visiting clinics. Find out more information about the company and its self-testing process.
Do not travel if you:
• have symptoms of COVID-19, even if mild
• are in quarantine or isolation
• have been diagnosed with COVID-19
• are waiting for the results of a lab test for COVID-19
• have been in close contact with someone who has or is suspected to have COVID-19
Don't have your Canadian vaccination passport yet?
British Columbians looking to travel now have the option to download the new federal proof of vaccination. This document is required for travellers who wish to travel within the country or internationally.
Find out how you can get your federal proof of vaccination.
With files from the Canadian Press.