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How to lower travel risks, vaccine requirements, and other need-to-knows from travel expert Claire Newell.
After more than a year and a half of living with the pandemic, everyone is eager to return to some sense of normalcy. For many people this includes travelling. However, it’s more complicated than it was pre-Covid so I am going to try to simplify things as best I can. Here are some important things to consider before booking a vacation.
Federal experts who warned about the dangers of travel earlier in the pandemic now say fully vaccinated people can travel without the need to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival back into Canada. However, experts still advise against any nonessential travel for unvaccinated individuals. And, the problem is, vaccines arent yet available for children under age 12. This means that while parents who are vaccinated are protected, traveling now may still put their younger children at risk.
As of August 9th, 2021 fully vaccinated Canadians are allowed to return to Canada without the need to quarantine for 14 days. When it comes to fully vaccinated parents and guardians travelling with children under the age of 12, who are not yet eligible for any of the Health Canada-approved vaccines, they can breathe a small sigh of relief. Instead of forcing those families to keep their young kids in quarantine for two weeks, they can carry on as usual, provided the children stay away from locations or situations where young children congregate, like at daycares, schools or camps, for at least 14 days.
Regardless of vaccine status or whether you are travelling with young kids, keep in mind that everyone entering Canada, whether they have been immunized against Covid-19 or not, must submit a pre-arrival PCR test (anyone over age 5) and quarantine plan through the ArriveCAN app or web portal prior to entry.
Airlines will be responsible for ensuring that passengers have fully submitted their info before they board their flight. Travellers crossing by land must be organized and have their documents uploaded and saved before they make their way into the country.
This cannot be a last minute consideration, if you are planning to travel, ensure you are sorted out before you leave.
1. Encourage everyone in your family who is eligible, and those you are planning to visit, get their Covid-19 vaccine. Many COVID infections come from household contacts.
2. Check the Covid-19 spread rates where you plan to visit. Locations with high rates of community spread, means a higher risk of someone in your family being exposed to Covid-19. If the intended destination has a high rate of spread, be extra cautious by practicing social distancing, frequent hand washing & wearing a mask. Keep in mind that outdoor activities are safer than indoor ones.
3. On a plane, bus, train, or other form of public transportation, make sure everyone in the family wears a mask, even those who are fully vaccinated — and keep them on at the airport or station.
4. Try to travel by car if possible. While the airline industry has taken amazing steps in helping to lower the risk of Covid-19 transmission (air exchange, HEPA air filters, electrostatic spraying), travelling by car will limit your contact with the public. During any rest stops, remember to wear masks and wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Also, consider packing your own food and snacks.
5. If you fly, I recommend booking direct flights when possible. That will limit the need to change planes and walk through busy airports. Keep your masks on for the entire flight; consider opting out of meals on short flights so you don’t have to remove them. And, don’t forget to bring disinfectant wipes to sanitize all the high-touch areas.
6. Be sure to tote along the important pandemic essentials. Pack at least two masks per person in case one is lost or being washed after use. When packing hand sanitizer, include a travel-size dispenser that can be stored in a purse or backpack as well as a larger container for refills.
Covid-19 has affected everyone and the past year has been stressful. The urge to travel might be tempting, but the pandemic is not over yet and It's important to consider the risks. As the vaccine rollout continues, and more countries open for tourists, you will be able to enjoy a relaxing trip soon.
While Canada continues to advise against all non-essential travel outside the country, there are plenty of countries accepting Canadian travellers with limited Covid-19 restrictions.IMPORTANT NOTE: When flying back to Canada, currently all passengers (over age 5) regardless of where they have traveled or vaccination status MUST pay for a pre-flight PCR test taken within 72 hours of their return flight to Canada.
EUROPE Canadians headed to most European countries will require a negative PCR test and proof of vaccination to avoid mandatory quarantine. Non-vaccinated travellers will need a negative PCR test and to quarantine for 10 to 14 days depending on the country being visited. France, the U.K., Sweden, Germany, and Austria require negative tests but are not asking Canadians to quarantine upon arrival regardless of vaccination status.Many European countries welcoming Canadian travellers are accepting those who had mixed-and-matched vaccines as long as the vaccines were approved for use by the EU health authority or the World Health Organization (WHO). What's considered fully vaccinated can depend on the country, so it is always best to check government websites for most up-to-date information, but currently most EU countries are accepting mixing of AstraZeneca and mRNA doses, as well as a mixing of mRNA doses.
UNITED STATES (excluding Hawaii): Currently, the United States doesn't have any vaccine requirements for travel. Most states require travellers over the age of 2 to show proof of a negative Covid-19 antigen or PCR test from within 72 hours of departure. However, this is changing sometime in early November (no offical date yet) when proof of vaccination will be required. The land border is currently closed to non-essential travel from Canadians, but they are able to fly into the country. The land border restrictions for Canadians travelling to the U.S. are in place until Oct 21, 2021 and may be extended. American travellers have been able to use the land border to enter Canada since Aug. 9, 2021 with proof of vaccination and a negative PCR test within 72 hours of arrival.
Hawaii: All travellers age 18 & older must register for the Safe Travels Hawaii online program before their departure. They must upload a negative PCR test result from an approved lab within 72 hours of their flight to Hawaii. Some islands including Oahu & Maui require proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test taken within 48 hours, to enter certain indoor venues including restaurants.
Costa Rica: Canadians need to purchase Covid-19 travel insurance with coverage for treatment and accommodation in case they need to quarantine & submit the Health Pass form online 48 hours before boarding their flight.
Cuba: Canadian travellers do not need a Covid-19 test prior entering Cuba. No quarantine if they go to an all-inclusive hotel (they can use all the facilities of the hotel, but the first 24 hours clients must stay at their booked hotels, wear a mask and social distance till they get the results (24hrs) of the FREE PCR test they receive at the Cuban airport upon arrival). Canadians need to complete a Health Declaration Form given on board of the flight. The PCR test Canadians need to re-enter back in Canada is done right at the hotels and it cost: 30 USD.
Dominican Republic: Canadians must submit a ETicket form indicating that they havent had any Covid-19 symptoms in the last 72 hours & may also be randomly tested upon arrival.
England: Canadians must have a negative PCR or antigen test result that was obtained within 3 days of travel. They must also book and pay for another Covid-19 test on Day 2 of their stay.
France: Open to Canadians and vaccinated travellers can visit without restrictions if they provide proof of full vaccination. Canada is considered a green country, so unvaccinated travellers must present proof of a negative PCR or antigen test result that was obtained within 72 hours prior to their flight. Vaccinated travellers do not need a test to travel to France. Canadians must also submit a sworn declaration that they do not have Covid-19 and have not been in contact with anyone with Covid-19.
Germany: Canadians can enter Germany without restrictions. All they need to do is present proof of full vaccination, recovery from Covid-19, a negative PCR test result from within 72 hours prior to entry, or a negative antigen test result from within 48 hours prior to entry.
Iceland: Iceland is open only for vaccinated Canadian tourists or Canadian travellers who can provide proof of a prior Covid-19 infection. All travellers must present proof of full vaccination or proof of previous Covid-19 infection. They must also present proof of a negative PCR or rapid antigen test result that was obtained within 72 hours prior to departure. All travellers must also complete a pre-registration form before they arrive in Iceland.
Italy: Canadians must submit a digital Passenger Locator Form and present a Green Covid-19 Pass from the local health authorities that show that they have either been fully vaccinated, recovered from Covid-19, or received a negative result from a rapid antigen or molecular swab test that was taken within 48 hours prior to entering Italy.Jamaica: All travellers must have a negative PCR or antigen test result that was obtained within 3 days of travel. Additionally, Canadians must complete a Travel Authorization document in order to be able to board their flights.
Kenya: Kenya is admitting Canadian travellers as long as they fill in a Travellers Health Surveillance Form & they must also provide evidence proof of a negative PCR test that was taken within 96 hours of arrival. The test result must be digitally verified through the Trusted Travel Initiative.
Malta: Vaccinated Canadian travellers are exempt from PCR testing and quarantine.
Mexico: All Canadians need to do is complete a risk-factor questionnaire.
Morocco: Canadian visitors must complete a Public Health Passenger Form and present either a vaccination certificate or a certificate for a negative PCR test result that was obtained within 72 hours prior to boarding.
Peru: Canadian travellers must have proof of a negative PCR test result from within 72 hours of boarding or a negative antigen test from within 24 hours prior to boarding. They must also complete an online Sworn Statement of Health.
Portugal: Canadians must present proof of a negative RT-PCR test result from within 72 hours prior to boarding or a negative rapid antigen test result from within 48 hours prior to boarding. They must also complete a Passenger Locator Card, either online or during their flight.
St. Lucia: Canadians just need to submit a Travel Registration Form & provide proof of a negative PCR test result that was issued within 7 days of travel.
South Africa: Canadians need to purchase Covid-19 travel insurance & present proof of a negative PCR test that was taken within 72 hours of arrival. They also need to download the Covid-19 Alert SA app.
Spain: Canadian travellers can enter Spain from Canada with no restrictions. All travellers must complete an electronic Health Control Form before they arrive in Spain.
Coming back to Canada
Travel Within Canada
Pre-Flight Testing (Antigen & PCR) In Canada pre-flight testing can be done in some provinces at Life Labs (https://www.lifelabs.com/flyclear/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI1ZjlvImi8wIVWB-tBh2L5gxxEAAYASAAEgKa1_D_BwE) , Shoppers Drug Mart (https://www.westernliving.ca//20777 ). There are also several clinics with multiple locations including CVM Medical (https://covid-medical.ca) & Rock Doc (https://rockdocinc.ca/services/travel)
.Many resorts & cruise lines are offering pre-flight PCR tests to return to Canada for free or at a nominal cost for their clients. The Canadian tour operators and airlines also have resources for their clients to find and book the PCR tests on their websites. You can also do a Google search with your DESTINATION + PCR test for travel and options should pop-up. I have noticed that the cost of testing has also started to lower. For example in Cuba the pre-flight PCR tests are done at all resorts for $30 USD. And for over a year the cheapest test to return in Los Cabos was $450 USD and now there is an option for $115 CAD.