Early in the new year, the Government of Canada announced that it intended to take additional measures to minimize the exposure to new and potentially more harmful variants of COVID-19. These new measures aim to limit the number of people travelling for non-essential purposes. For example, effective January 7, 2021, all travellers entering Canada by air are required to present a negative COVID-19 test before boarding a flight destined for Canada.

On January 29, 2021, Canada's Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau announced that the Federal Government will implement additional 'multi-layered' measures for travellers entering Canada.

At this time there are few details regarding the exact measures, how they will work, and who will be exempt. We will provide updates as further details are provided.

Terminating Flights To And From Common Travel Destinations Such As Caribbean And Mexico

In conjunction with Air Canada, WestJet, Air Transat and Sunwing, the Government of Canada has agreed to suspend services to sun destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico commencing January 31, 2021 until at least April 30 2021. This suspension is intended to curb Canadians from travelling to sun destinations for vacations.

Decreasing Airports Designated To Accept International and United States Flights

Starting February 3, 2021, all inbound international flights to Canada will be redirected to one of four major airports including Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.

The new restrictions will include scheduled commercial passenger flights arriving from the United States, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and South America, which were previously exempted under similar restrictions implemented in 2020. Private/business and charter flights from all countries will also be required to land at one of the four airports.

Arrival Covid-19 Testing And Mandated Isolation In Government Of Canada Approved Hotels For Air Travel

Mandatory polymerase chain reaction ("PCR") Rapid Testing will be administered to all travellers entering Canada by air at the designated airports as soon as the Canadian government can carry out logistical protocols for implementing such a system.

While awaiting PCR Rapid Test results, isolation of at least three days will be required at a government-approved hotel at the expense of the traveller. The Government estimates the cost of this hotel isolation at $2,000 CAD. Travellers are permitted to go "home" to continue isolation under strengthened government watch measures if their PCR Test is negative. If the PCR Rapid Test is positive, travellers will have to continue to isolate at a government facility for the remaining isolation period. Travellers are only expected to cover the costs of the first three days of hotel based isolation.

The government noted that there will be limited exemptions to the PCR Rapid Test and three-day hotel isolation requirement. As most of the announcement has referenced "non-essential" travel and travellers, we expect that the government will continue to provide some exemptions for essential travel and essential services travellers.

Pre-Travel Negative PCR Testing Required for Land Ports of Entry

The Government of Canada will require all travellers entering Canada by land to submit evidence of a negative PCR test result taken within three days of travel. This will be similar to the requirement currently in place for air travellers. There is no exact date provided for implementation of this rule, just that it will be put in place over the coming weeks.

Immediate Impacts Are Uncertain

While a formal or written order has yet to be implemented, Prime Minister Trudeau made clear that the tightening of measures would be implemented quickly and that all additional requirements would be announced as soon as possible in the coming weeks. Travellers and employers who need to move critical employees should be aware of these changes coming. Further reviews may be required to determine how the new measures will impact travel and whether exemptions are applicable. The immigration team at MLT Aikins has a wealth of experience guiding travellers and employers through pandemic-related rules.

Originally Published by MLT Aikins, February 2021

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