There have been a number of updates and developments with respect to travel to and from Canada in the past week. Below, we touch on a number of issues, from the border closure to a new development at Pearson Airport that may allow more travel into the country.
As expected, it was announced on Tuesday that the Canada-United States border is to remain closed to non-essential travel until at least February 21. The announcement and extension of the closure marks almost 11 months of restrictions at the border, as the border was first closed in March 2020. The closure announcement comes amidst new restrictions in some provinces, such as Ontario and Quebec. Last week, Quebec announced an essentially province-wide curfew that requires residents to be in their homes from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. every night. The curfew order is set to last until at least February 8. This week, Ontario announced that there will be a stay at home order in place effective starting this Thursday, January 14. The stay at home order will require everyone to stay home with exceptions provided for essential purposes, such as grocery shopping, accessing health services or doing essential work. The order will be in place until at least February 11. Under the order, local and provincial police will have the power to ticket those who do not comply with the stay at home order.
At the moment most people are focused on vaccination as the key to reopening borders, and restarting immigration at full capacity. Although the rollout of the vaccines has been slower than expected thus far, Canada is expecting to start receiving 1 million vaccine doses a week this coming spring. This means that 20 million Canadians could be fully vaccinated between April and June 2021, more than half of Canada’s total population. As of today, January 15th, the federal government announced a delay in receiving stock of the Pfizer vaccine, however they expect the company to make up for the delay by the end of March. Further, there are new vaccines that are currently be considered by Health Canada for approval from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. If one or both of these vaccines are approved, it could make the vaccination process happen even faster.
Canadian provinces are not alone in enacting stricter COVID-19 regulations, as the United States announced some stricter travel regulations this week. Although the border between Canada and the United States is closed to non-essential travel, Canadians have still been able to fly into the United States for non-essential purposes with little to no regulation. Now, it has been announced that as of January 26, all Canadians travelling to the United States will have to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of their boarding time. Province by province availability and cost of asymptomatic COVID-19 tests varies, so make sure to ensure that you are able to secure testing if you plan on travelling to the United States. Health experts still caution against non-essential travel, so if you are considering travel, make sure to weigh the risks before you make a final decision.
More positive news regarding air travel has come out recently on our side of the border. Pearson International Airport has announced a new rapid COVID-19 testing program from international travellers as part of the Arrivals Testing Pilot Program. The program started on January 6, and international travellers will be offered COVID-19 testing at the airport. This testing program comes in addition to the requirement that travellers coming to Canada must submit a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure. Travellers flying domestically are not eligible to participate in the program. Travellers can pre-register to be tested or can sign up upon arrival at Pearson. People who take part in the program will still have to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival to Canada, even if they do test negative. The aims of the program are to add an additional layer of protection, as well as to help inform the development of future testing programs for broader implementation to support the eventual safe reopening of borders.
Make sure you stay updated on regional restrictions and regulations before you make travel arrangements. If you are trying to travel, make sure you qualify as essential or prepare an exemption request. Depending on where you are going, you may also need a 14-day quarantine plan. If you have questions about where you can travel, please do not hesitate to contact us.
The immigration lawyers at Garson Immigration Law are continuing to monitor the immigration fallout in relation to COVID-19 on both sides of the border and will provide updates as the situation develops. If you have any questions about your potential classification as essential or about how you should comply with the changing regulations, do not hesitate to reach out to us online or by calling us at 416-321-2860.