Traveling to Canada during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go

Editor’s Note — Coronavirus cases remain high across the globe. Health officials caution that travel increases your chances of getting and spreading the virus. Staying home is the best way to stem transmission. Below is information on what to know if you still plan to travel, last updated on March 25.

(CNN) — If you’re planning to travel to Canada, here’s what you’ll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The basics

Canada may have fared better than its neighbor to the south, but the country continues to report 3,000-4,000 Covid-19 cases a day on average. There are strict rules on entry for all, including Canadian citizens and their relatives. All arrivals must quarantine for 14 days.
People older than 5 flying into Canada are required to provide written or electronic documentation showing they received a negative result from a Covid-19 PCR or RT-LAMP test conducted within 72 hours before their scheduled boarding.

Most incoming air travelers are required to take an additional Covid-19 test when they land and quarantine in a government-supervised hotel for up to three days at their own expense while awaiting the results. If the test comes back negative, they can spend the remainder of their 14-day quarantine period at home.

As for travelers arriving by land, as of February 15, all visitors — with some exceptions — are required to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 molecular test result taken in the United States within 72 hours of pre-arrival, or a positive test taken 14 to 90 days before arrival.

On February 4, the Canadian government announced no cruise ships will be permitted to sail in Canadian waters until at least March 1, 2022.

What’s on offer

This is the ultimate destination for adventure. Whether it’s skiing and snowboarding in the Rockies or bear watching in the wilds of Ontario, Canada has everything to satisfy travelers who want to spend time in the great outdoors.

Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City are all perfect for city breaks, with first rate culture, food and entertainment on offer.

Who can go

Citizens and permanent residents are allowed to enter Canada, but they must quarantine for 14 days. Immediate and extended family members, including those without Canadian citizenship, can enter for any reason as long as they are staying in the country for more than 15 days (they must also quarantine). Those coming for fewer than 15 days can only enter for an essential purpose.

All extended family members (but not immediate family) must also have written permission from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). For more information, click here. Only essential travel and transiting passengers are otherwise allowed.

What are the restrictions?

On February 12, Canada announced further testing and quarantine requirements for international travelers arriving in Canada by air and land. Only four major airports are accepting international flights: Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.
As of November 21, all permitted arrivals must use the ArriveCAN app or website to submit travel and contact information, a 14-day quarantine plan and a Covid-19 symptom self-assessment.

The quarantine plan must detail where you will stay, how you will get there and how you will arrange for delivery of essentials such as groceries and medicine. Failure to stick to the plan can lead to six months’ jail time and a CAD$750,000 (US$593,000) fine.

Additionally, all arrivals are given a health screening by a border officer to assess any symptoms.

What’s the Covid-19 situation?

Canada dealt with the initial wave of Covid-19 well. However, a deadly second wave in late 2020 led to new restrictions. The country is now in the midst of a nationwide Covid-19 vaccine program.

Though case numbers have been in decline since January, the Canadian government says “given the number of cases in Canada, the risk to Canadians is considered high.”
Government officials in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, declared it was at the beginning of a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, pointing to evidence of increasing case counts, hospitalizations and the spread of variants.

Quebec has eased its lockdown restrictions, allowing some nonessential businesses to reopen, though a curfew has been in place for more than two months.

Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province, has adopted some of the country’s strictest Covid-19 prevention measures, with nonresidents needing to apply for approval to visit in advance.

What can visitors expect?

Mask mandates vary between provinces. Alberta brought in new measures in early December, enforcing face coverings and banning all social gatherings.

Restrictions have eased slightly in British Columbia. A ban on indoor social gatherings remains, though outdoor gatherings of no more than 10 people are now permitted. Restaurants and bars are open for indoor dining; however, they must stop serving alcohol at 10 p.m. and close by 11 p.m.

In the province of Alberta, a ban on indoor dining at restaurants was lifted on February 8, while in Toronto, bars and restaurants are limited to take out service only.

Most Canadian provinces continue to advise people to keep a distance of two meters (6.5 feet) to cut the spread of the virus.

Useful links

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Joe Minihane, Julia Buckley and Karla Cripps contributed to this report