A few weeks ago, Alberta announced a plan to institute a COVID-19 testing regime that would shorten quarantine time for would-be travellers to the province from two weeks down to just two days. In order to avoid the two-week quarantine, travellers to Alberta would have to submit to a COVID-19 test at the port of entry. After leaving the port of entry, travellers will have to travel to their place where they intend to quarantine in Alberta. After approximately 48 hours, the test result should become available.

If the test is returned negative, the 14-day mandatory quarantine requirement will no longer apply, subject to conditions:

  1. The traveller would be required to remain within the province of Alberta for 14 days after their initial entry.
  2. The traveller must submit to getting a second COVID-19 test at a pharmacy in Alberta six or seven days following their arrival. Failure to abide by these regulations could result in the traveller being ticketed by the province.

This pilot program as it is currently proposed will be available to foreign essential workers such as truckers, health care workers and others who are exempt from the federal border closure with the U.S.. It will also be available to any Canadian citizens and permanent residents who are allowed entry into Canada and do not show any COVID-19 symptoms at the port of entry into Alberta.

Talking about this pilot program, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said:

“We simply must move forward to develop policies to facilitate safe travel. Though a lot of work lies ahead, we can see a return to normal travel. Our twin goal here is protecting both lives and livelihoods, and that is especially important in Alberta with the depth of the energy price collapse and its economic impact.”

Those Who Refuse to Participate Must Quarantine for Two Weeks

If this program is implemented, travellers who choose not to participate will have to endure the mandatory 14-day quarantine period, or they will be subject to fines. The 14-day quarantine may be preferable to some travellers, as federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu has indicated that participants in the pilot program may be subject to closer monitoring and increased regulation than those who choose to quarantine for 14 days. This increased regulation may include daily symptom checks, a requirement to avoid high-risk groups and mandatory mask-wearing in public places.

Program Limited to Two Locations for Now

Currently, the pilot program is only in place in two locations:

  • The Calgary airport
  • Coutts land border crossing

On November 2, the first participants in the program landed at the Calgary airport. Travellers who participated in the program said that the test in the airport happened quickly and the process was smooth. The efficiency and efficacy of the testing regime will need to be monitored as the number of participating travellers increases.

Other Provinces May Implement Similar Programs

If Alberta’s pilot COVID-19 traveller testing program proves to be successful, we could see other provinces implement similar programs. As it stands currently, Ontario and Quebec are both experiencing around 1,000 new cases per day, so those provinces may be reluctant to implement any measures that would seem to encourage travel as the battle rages against the pandemic.

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 travel to Canada under the new pilot COVID-19 testing program, be sure you abide by the regulations for that program, or you could be subject to fines. 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.

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