A traveler drops off their baggage at Toronto Pearson International Airport, on Thursday, December 16, 2021. The federal government is warning Canadians against non-essential travel internationally due to the risk of the Omicron variant that causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin

A traveler drops off their baggage at Toronto Pearson International Airport, on Thursday, December 16, 2021. The federal government is warning Canadians against non-essential travel internationally due to the risk of the Omicron variant that causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin

Vaccinated Canadians can take antigen test instead of PCR for pre-arrival COVID testing: feds

Canada lowering travel advisory level, no longer urging against non-essential travel

The federal government is dropping the requirement for vaccinated Canadians to provide a PCR test in order to return to the country.

At a press conference Tuesday (Feb. 15), federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said that Canadians can take a cheaper antigen test as of Feb. 28, as long as they are fully vaccinated. The tests must be authorized by the country in which it is taken and overseen by either a laboratory, health-care entity or via tele-health.

Travellers choosing to take a rapid antigen test must do so within 24 hours of boarding their flight or arriving at the land border. PCR tests must still be taken within 72 hours.

However, some individuals will be selected for random PCR testing. Those individuals will not need to isolate while awaiting their results.

Unvaccinated Canadians must continue to test upon arrival and on days eight and 14. Unvaccinated foreigners will not be allowed in unless they qualify for an exemption.

Duclos said that children under the age of 12 who are not fully vaccinated will not be tested upon arrival and will no longer need to quarantine from activities such as school.

The federal health minister said that Ottawa has dropped the travel advisory against travelling abroad from a level 3, which calls on Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel, to a level 2, which urges Canadians to simply “practice special precautions.”

Duclos added that other travel and testing requirements could be lifted in the future.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced that all airports in Canada will be able to receive international travellers as of Feb. 28, instead of just the 18 currently allowed to do so.

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