The Federal government is re-imposing a COVID-19 testing requirement for all air travellers entering Canada, other than those coming from the United States, in the wake of new concerns over the Omicron variant.  

“We are announcing today that all air travellers coming from outside Canada, apart from the United States will now need to be tested at the airport in which they are landing in Canada, whether they are vaccinated or unvaccinated. They will then need to isolate themselves until they get the result of their test,” Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said Tuesday.

The testing requirement will come into effect “over the next few days,” Duclos said. He added that the federal government will be meeting with provincial officials to discuss possible measures at the U.S. land border.



He said the government is also expanding travel restrictions to three more countries: Nigeria, Malawi, and Egypt.

The government last week imposed restrictions on travellers from seven southern African countries – South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Namibia and eSwatini – over concerns about the new variant.

Any foreign national who has visited the affected countries over the past 14 days will be barred from entry into Canada.

Officials said Tuesday that all Canadian citizens and permanent residents who have been to those 10 countries will now have to obtain a COVID-19 test in a third country before entering Canada.

“Upon entering Canada, these travellers with a right of entry will be tested again and will be required to wait in a designated quarantine facility until the result of their day one test result is known,” Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said.

Vaccinated travellers will be able to complete their quarantine plan elsewhere after obtaining a negative test, while unvaccinated travellers will have to remain at the designated facility for the entire quarantine period.

The requirement for a test in a third country takes effect tonight, Duclos said.

Asked about the possibility of a blanket travel ban similar to that imposed by Israel in order to curb transmission of the new variant, Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino did not rule out the option.

“We have never hesitated to follow the advice that we're getting from our public health care officials, which we continue to receive in real time, particularly with the advent of this variant of concern and we believe that that the measures that we have in place are appropriate,” Mendicino said. “We know that Canadians are going to watch this very closely as are we. We will take whatever decisions are necessary.”



Countries around the world have raced to impose new travel restrictions over concerns that the Omicron variant appears to be even more transmissible than the dominant Delta variant and could possibly be more virulent, though there has not been enough research so far to know if that is the case.  

Scientists are also not yet sure whether the virus might be better at evading the protection provided by vaccines against most COVID-19 variants.

Cases have been cropping up quickly around the world, including in Canada. By Monday Ontario had confirmed four cases of the variant in people who recently travelled, while Quebec reported one case. Health officials in Alberta on Tuesday reported that province’s first case of the variant, as did health officials in B.C..

The renewed fears over the virus come at a time when many countries are starting to roll out booster shots.

However more developed countries have faced criticism for rolling out third doses to their populations when countries like South Africa and others included in the ban have had difficulty securing enough vaccine supply to even offer all their citizens a first dose.  

“We know that this pandemic is going to end only when it ends globally,” Duclos told a reporter in response to a question about the criticism. “And that's why we must obviously look after the health and safety of Canadians. But we also must be supporting other countries, especially those that are less developed and have a public health system that is less developed.”

He said Canada has been assisting less developed countries by donating vaccine doses through the COVAX program and direct assistance with technology and human resources to support vaccine rollouts.