People line up and check in for an international flight at Pearson International airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. (Nathan Denette/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Stricter public health measures now in effect for travellers to Canada

Stricter health measures for travellers arriving to Canada by air and over the land border with the U.S. kicked in on Monday.

Most air passengers will now have to take a COVID-19 test after landing in Canada and spend up to three days at their own expense in a designated hotel to await their test results as part of their mandatory 14-day quarantine period. That’s in addition to a negative COVID-19 molecular test taken within 72 hours prior to departure travellers have to present prior to boarding the aircraft en route to Canada.

According to the new rules, travellers must pre-book their hotel stay in one of the 18 approved quarantine hotels before arriving in Canada. There is no option to book online, so travellers must call a dedicated phone line to reserve a room.

Over the weekend, Canadian media reported several complaints about travellers having hard time booking these hotels by phone because of long waits on hold or their calls kept getting disconnected.

Self-swab kits at land border crossings

Travellers arriving at land borders will be given self-swab kits, and testing will be provided on-site at five high-volume border crossings, federal officials said.

Again that’s in addition to the proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular test result taken in the United States within 72 hours before entry into Canada or proof of a positive COVID-19 test conducted between 14 and 90 days before arrival.

They’ll need to complete a second test on Day 10 of their self-isolation period.

Drivers wait to enter Canadian customs at the Canada-U.S. border crossing at Peace Arch park in Surrey, British Columbia. As of Feb. 22, travellers entering Canada at land borders, unless exempt, will be required to take a COVID-19 test using a self-swab kit.
(Jesse Winter/REUTERS)

The federal government plans to equip 11 additional land crossings with self-swab kits along the Canada-U.S. border as of March 4.

The measures come as federal health officials are becoming increasingly worried about the new variants of COVID-19.

While COVID-19 numbers have been steadily declining across the country for over a month, the spread of new variants of the virus could lead to a third and even bigger pandemic wave if stronger public health measures are not adopted, according to new modelling by the Public Health Agency of Canada’s (PHAC) released on Friday

“With the emergence and spread of new variants of concern, we are cautioned that unless we maintain and abide by stringent public health measures, we may not be able to avert a re-acceleration of the epidemic in Canada,” said Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam during a virtual news conference on Friday.

“These variants have been smouldering in the background and now threaten to flare up.”

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