What you need to know about Canada's updated vaccine rules for domestic travel
TORONTO -- As of Nov. 30, the transition period allowing for a negative COVID-19 test from those looking to travel by plane, train or ship in Canada will end, meaning all travellers must be fully vaccinated before boarding and provide proof of that.
The travel rules, which were announced by the federal government at the beginning of October, officially came into effect Oct. 30. However, there was a month-long transition period that allowed those who don't qualify as fully vaccinated to travel if they can show a negative COVID-19 molecular test taken within 72 hours of travel.
Starting Tuesday at 3:01 a.m. EST, a negative COVID-19 test will no longer be accepted as an alternative to vaccination.
This means that if you cannot prove that you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you will not be allowed to board. Travel Canada says there will be "very limited exemptions" to this rule, such as medical inability to be vaccinated.
Other rules implemented earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic for travellers, including mandatory masks, health check questions, and negative test requirements for international travellers, remain in place.
While airlines were selecting travellers departing from a Canadian airport on a random basis — as per Transport Canada guidelines — to show evidence of COVID-19 vaccination during the transition period, both Air Canada and WestJet have told CTVNews.ca that they will have a system in place as of Nov. 30 for customers to submit their proof of vaccination online ahead of arrival at an airport.
Along with adding three new countries to its travel ban for foreign nationals who have been to these regions in the past 14 days, the federal government announced on Nov. 30 additional requirements for air travellers arriving in Canada, with the exception of the United States, in response to concerns over the Omicron variant.
All air travellers who are vaccinated must be tested at the airport once they arrive in Canada and isolate until they receive a negative result, while those who are unvaccinated must isolate for 14 days and get tested on the first and eighth days of their quarantine. Those with a safe place to isolate will not need to spend their isolation in a government quarantine hotel.
Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said this new requirement is set to come into effect “over the next few days.”
In a statement, Mike McNaney, president and CEO of the National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents Air Canada, Air Transat, Jazz Aviation LP and WestJet, said the aviation sector will “move rapidly to implement the temporary measures” announced by the federal government.
“It is expected the new measures will be adjusted as further study is carried out on the variant, and that the impact on the relaunch of the travel and tourism sector will be manageable,” McNaney said.
“However, the economic uncertainty facing aviation cannot be overstated. As the variant is reviewed by public health authorities, we expect the government will move forward through science and data based decision making, tied to clear metrics.”
RULES FOLLOWING TRANSITION PERIOD
According to the Government of Canada, anyone who is 12 years of age plus four months or older will need to provide proof that they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In order to board, all travellers must have received their second dose at least 14 days before their departure date.
The rules apply to anyone who is travelling by plane on domestic or international flights departing from most Canadian airports, and rail passengers on VIA Rail and Rocky Mountaineer trains.
A COVID-19 test will not be needed to board a flight or train in Canada, unless flying to a country that requires one.
“If you indicate to your airline or railway company that you're eligible to board, but fail to provide proof of vaccination or valid COVID-19 test result, you won’t be allowed to travel and could face penalties or fines,” Transport Canada said in a notice online.
If a child has just turned 12, there is a four-month exemption period following their 12th birthday in which they will not be required to be vaccinated. Travel Canada noted that this gives children the time to receive both shots of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Unvaccinated children under 12-years-old and four months do not require a COVID-19 test to travel within or depart Canada, although international destinations may have different requirements.
"Any adjustments to travel measures will continue to be examined, based on scientific evidence, public health advice, and the evolving epidemiological situation, as has been the case since the onset of the pandemic," Transport Canada said in email on Nov. 24.
PROOF OF VACCINATION
Provinces and territories issue and use the Canadian COVID-19 proof of vaccination that is acceptable for travel.
The federal government says Canadians should be ready at any point in their journey to show their proof of vaccination.
If you plan to show your proof of vaccination on your phone, the government recommends travellers carry a backup paper copy in case of "difficulties," such as the device having a dead battery.
The government notes that the Canadian COVID-19 proof of vaccination does not guarantee entry into another country, and says travellers should check if there are any restrictions at their final destination before travelling abroad.
For those who do not have Canadian documents, their proof of vaccination must include the following information:
- full name of the person who received the vaccine;
- the name of the government or organization that issued the proof or administered the vaccine;
- the brand name or manufacturer of the vaccine or of the mix of accepted vaccines
- the date you received your second dose or your first dose of Janssen/Johnson & Johnson
If your proof of vaccination is not in English or French, you will need a certified translation in either of these languages.
WHICH VACCINES ARE ACCEPTED?
Those 12-years-old plus four months or older will have to provide proof that they have received both doses of a Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccine series or a mix of two accepted vaccines.
The rules specify, though, that you must have received the second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to your departure date.
Currently, travellers will be permitted to board if they have received the Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty), Moderna (Spikevax), AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria) or Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
The federal government announced earlier this month that travellers who have received the Sinopharm, Sinovac and Covaxin COVID-19 vaccines will be considered fully vaccinated for travel purposes by Nov. 30, matching the COVID-19 vaccines approved for use by the World Health Organization.
Canadians are allowed to travel if they have received at least one dose of the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine, as long as they received the shot 14 days before their travel date.
RE-ENTRY TEST REQUIREMENTS
As of Nov. 30, fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents returning home after short trips to the United States and abroad will no longer have to provide proof of a negative molecular test, such as a PCR test.
The federal government announced Nov. 19 that it would be lifting the molecular test requirement for travellers who have received a complete COVID-19 vaccine series when returning to Canada after less than 72 hours.
However, a molecular test is still required for re-entry of those taking trips abroad lasting more than 72 hours.
The proof of vaccination rules also apply to travellers looking to board a cruise ship in Canada, once those trips resume.
Transport Canada says anyone boarding a cruise ship or other passenger vessel where the trip will last more than 24 hours will need to show proof of vaccination.
While the federal government has lifted the global advisory asking Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside the country, it is continuing to advise against travel on cruise ships.
FLY-IN COMMUNITY EXEMPTION
Those living in fly-in communities will be exempt from the vaccine travel requirement for certain domestic trips.
According to the government's new rules, passengers from small or remote communities who are unvaccinated will still be able to obtain essential services for their medical, health or social well-being, and return safely to their homes.
With files from CTVNews.ca's Hannah Jackson