Air travellers entering Canada must have a negative COVID-19 test before arrival, Ottawa says

Air passengers entering Canada will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within three days of arriving in the country, the federal government announced today.

Travellers must receive a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test before they’ll be permitted to board a plane — a requirement Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said will be in place “quickly,” though he did not provide an exact date.

The measure does not replace the federal government’s mandatory 14-day quarantine period, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair warned.

“This is not an alternative to quarantine. It’s an additional layer,” Blair said during a public health briefing.

The Canada Border Services Agency also will be increasing its presence at airports across Canada, the minister said.

“Additional border officers will be present at various positions to reinforce compliance messaging,” Blair said, adding that teams already have been sent to customs and baggage areas and inspection lines to speak to travellers about their obligations — and the consequences of failing to follow the rules.

The federal government has advised against non-essential travel outside Canada since the start of the pandemic, though officials noted Wednesday that about two per cent of COVID-19 cases have been brought into the country from overseas.

The new measures come as Ontario Health Minister Rod Phillips is under fire over news that he had travelled to the Caribbean island of St. Barts for a personal vacation earlier this month. Phillips is on his way back to Canada after Ontario Premier Doug Ford demanded his return.

Quebec Liberal MNA Pierre Arcand has also received criticism for visiting Barbados during the holidays, a trip Arcand now says he regrets.

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