Canada updates COVID-19 restrictions

The Government of Canada has announced it is eliminating the pre-arrival PCR test requirement for fully vaccinated travellers starting February 28.

Fully vaccinated travellers can instead opt for a rapid antigen test approved by the country they are coming from, taken 24 hours before their scheduled flight or arrival at the land border.

Currently, all travellers, regardless of their vaccine status, must provide proof of a negative molecular test, such as a PCR test, within 72 hours of a scheduled flight to Canada.

Canada is also easing the on-arrival testing requirement for fully vaccinated travellers starting February 28. Travellers arriving in Canada from any country may be randomly selected for testing upon arrival. However, travellers selected will no longer be required to quarantine while awaiting their test results. Restrictions on children under 12 years old who are travelling with fully vaccinated adults are also being lifted, meaning they will no longer have to wait 14 days before attending school, daycare or camps.

Unvaccinated travellers will continue to be required to test on arrival, on Day 8 and quarantine for 14 days. Unvaccinated foreign nationals will not be permitted to enter Canada unless they meet one of the few exemptions.

“Today’s announcements are a reflection of the progress we have made against this current Omicron variant… As we have said all along, Canada’s border measures will remain flexible and adaptable for potential future scenarios,” said Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos.

British Columbia easing COVID-19 restrictions

British Columbia is also easing several COVID-19 restrictions starting Wednesday, February 16 at 11:59 pm PST.

While the government is keeping some measures in place, including mandatory masks in all public places and the BC Vaccine Card system, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the lifting of restrictions on personal gatherings, organized gatherings and events, and a return to normal capacity limits for large indoor events and restaurants, bars and nightclubs.

The changes include:

  • Indoor personal gatherings – return to normal
  • Indoor and outdoor organized gatherings – full capacity, dancing allowed with masks and proof of vaccination
  • Indoor seated events, such as sporting events and movie theatres – full capacity with masks and proof of vaccination
  • Fitness centres, adult sports, dance and swimming – full capacity, no restrictions on tournaments with masks and proof of vaccination
  • Restaurants, bars and nightclubs – full capacity with no table limits and mingling and dancing allowed with masks and proof of vaccination

Dr. Henry said the remaining restrictions will be reviewed by March 15, before Spring Break, and again by April 12 before the Easter holiday.

“These changes are taking effect after careful review of where we are in this pandemic, and the credit goes to all British Columbians for their action to protect themselves, their families and their communities,” said Dr. Henry. “We will continue to rely on what is happening in BC, science and evidence to guide our next steps in this journey to protect people from COVID-19 while safely easing restrictions.”

Ontario to remove vaccination passport system

The Ontario government will remove its proof of vaccination system on March 1, and is moving up the second phase of its COVID-19 reopening plan to Thursday, February 17.

The province said in a recent news release that businesses and other settings may choose to continue to require proof of vaccination, despite the province removing the vaccination passport system. 

Mask requirements will remain in place at this time.

All capacity limits in restaurants, bars, cinemas and gyms will be lifted on February 17, a move that was set to take effect on February 21.

Ford said the removal of these public health measures has “always been our objective”.

Ford continued, “the extraordinary measures that we introduced during this pandemic were always intended as a last resort. I stood at this very podium and promised you that these tools would only be used for as long as they were absolutely necessary and not one day longer”.

Quebec to phase out vaccination passport

Quebec’s vaccine passport will be gradually phased out by March 14, the province’s health minister announced yesterday.

As of today, the passport will no longer be required to access shopping stores, cannabis or liquor stores. It will no longer be required at places of worship and funerals as of February 21.

“We are removing it gradually as we live to learn with the virus,” said Health Minister Christian Dubé. The removal of the passport coincides with the arrival of large quantities of Pfizer’s Paxlovid COVID-19 antiviral pill, which he said will help protect the unvaccinated and the most vulnerable from the disease.

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