During a press conference on January 6, 2021, Canada's Transport Minister, Marc Garneau, announced that a negative COVID-19 test will now be required in order to enter the country by aircraft.
Under section 58 of the Quarantine Act, SC 2005, c 20, the Governor in Council may, by Emergency Order, impose conditions upon entry into Canada. The Interim Order Respecting Certain Requirements for Civil Aviation Due to COVID-19, No 18 ("Order"), which came into force on January 7, 2021, requires all air passengers aged five years or older to obtain a negative screening test fewer than 72 hours before their scheduled return flight to Canada. Due to lack of test capacity or availability, travelers from St-Pierre and Miquelon and Haiti will nevertheless be exempt from such testing until January 14 and January 21, 2021, respectively.
The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method should be used for the screening test as other types of tests, such as rapid antigen tests, will not be accepted. Test results may be provided in written or electronic form.
This new obligation adds to the existing requirement of a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Canada.
Obligations for Airlines
Compliance with the new testing requirements must be verified by airlines prior to boarding. Save for temporary exceptions in respect of travel from Haiti or from Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, an airline must deny boarding to a passenger who cannot demonstrate a negative test. Air carriers will have to ensure that the document certifying the test meets the requirements of the Order in that it includes :
- the name and date of birth of the person;
- the name and civic address of the laboratory that administered the test;
- the date on which the specimen was collected and the test method used; and
- the negative test result.
Under the Order, air carriers will also be required to notify Transport Canada if they have reason to believe that a person is attempting to fraudulently enter Canada with a false negative result.
Airlines will also be required to continue applying other health measures already in place, including the standard health check (fever, cough, difficulty breathing), passenger temperature screening, and that passengers wear a face mask at all times during the flight.
Offences and Penalties
Under section 71 of the Quarantine Act, any person, including an airline, who fails to comply with the health measures set out in the Order is liable for a fine of up to $750,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 6 months. Airlines as entities are also liable for the acts committed by their employees in violation of the law. Airline officers and directors should thus take all reasonable measures to ensure employees' and passengers' compliance with health measures.
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