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Canada’s random COVID testing returning for vaccinated air travellers

Canada is bringing back mandatory random testing of vaccinated travellers arriving at its airports in Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, and Toronto starting July 19.

This comes after the government brought in pandemic travel changes last month, including its “broader strategy to transition testing for air travellers outside of the airports.”

Health Canada now says all testing for air travellers — both those who are fully vaccinated, as well as partially or unvaccinated — will be done outside of airports at select locations in-person or by virtual appointment for a self-swab.

“As we have said all along, Canada’s border measures will remain flexible and adaptable, guided by science and prudence. We need to keep border testing measures in place because that is how we track importation of the COVID-19 virus, and of new variants of concern,” Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said in a statement Thursday. “We will keep adapting our border measures to balance the need to protect Canadians while supporting our economic recovery.”


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People who don’t qualify as fully vaccinated must still complete Day 1 and Day 8 testing as part of a 14-day mandatory quarantine, unless they have an exemption.

The federal government says moving testing procedures outside of airports will help the country “monitor and quickly respond to new variants of concern, or changes to the epidemiological situation.”

“As demand for travel increases across the world, today’s announcement marks an important step in our progress to streamline testing processes outside our airports while preventing the further spread of COVID-19,” said Transport Minister Omar Alghabra.

Health Canada says travellers arriving at the four aforementioned airports and who are randomly selected for testing will receive an email within 15 minutes of clearing customs. That email will contain information about the steps they are required to take as part of the border measure.

Anyone whose test comes back positive is required to follow the federal requirement to isolate for 10 days from their date of arrival. This is regardless of what COVID-19 requirements are in your province or territory.

Mandatory random testing of arrivals at the land border remains unchanged. Use of the ArriveCAN app also remains mandatory.

News of the return of random testing for vaccinated travellers comes amid a frustrating time for many people who have faced extreme delays at some of Canada’s major airports in recent weeks.

The country has faced repeated criticism for the delays, as have airlines.

“As more people continue to travel again, we’re working hard and adding resources to keep things moving,” said Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino. “The CBSA is hiring new people – including retired officers and student border services officers – making additional kiosks available and improving ArriveCAN so it is faster and easier to use. As the situation evolves, we’ll continue to make adjustments and enhancements at the border because that’s what Canadians expect.”

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