Anyone coming into Canada through a land border as of February 15 will be required to show a negative COVID-19 test or face a fine, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday.
“As of Feb. 15, when you return to Canada through a land border, you’ll need to show a 72-hour PCR test, just like for air travel,” said Trudeau.
“People who show up at a land border for non-essential travel, like returning snowbirds, will be expected to show a negative PCR test.”
A PCR – or polymerase chain reaction – test detects genetic material from a specific organism, like the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, if the person is infected at the time of the test or has been previously infected.
The test is typically done by getting a swab from inside the nasal cavity and having it analyzed in a medical lab. The results are usually available after about a day.
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Border control agents in Canada do not have the authority to arrest or prevent any Canadian who fails to produce such a PCR test from entering the country. But anyone who fails to do so can be fined up to $3,000.
“These are public health measures that are necessary to ensure that we are keeping Canadians safe, particularly given the arrival of new variants in Canada and extensively around the world,” said Trudeau. “We need to do everything we can to keep people safe.”
The latest move to secure Canada’s borders and prevent the spread of COVID-19 comes in the wake of Ottawa’s decision last month to clamp down on non-essential air travel with tougher rules.
In January, the Canadian government announced any air travellers coming to Canada for non-essential reasons would be required to:
- take a COVID-19 molecular test upon arrival at their own cost, and;
- reserve a room in a federal government-approved hotel for three nights at their own cost while they await the results.
Those added costs have been pegged as being as high as $2,000 and include food, cleaning and security.
After those three days, travellers to Canada are still required to complete a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Ottawa is working with four security companies, G4S Secure Solutions (Canada), Garda Canada Security Corporation, Paladin Risk Solutions, and the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires, to ensure travellers respect those quarantine orders.
Failure to Quarantine Can Come With Six Months Jail Sentence
Under the Quarantine Act, violating the quarantine is punishable by up to six months in prison and/or $750,000 in fines.
Last month, the Canadian government also extended its restrictions on non-U.S. international travel to Canada for another month, until Feb. 21.
“Our government will never hesitate to take the strong action needed to keep Canadians safe from COVID-19 while maintaining essential trade with our international partners,” tweeted Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair.
“With some of the strictest travel restrictions in the world, we’ve taken strong action at our borders to fight COVID-19 with enhanced screening measures and pre-arrival testing for anyone entering our land or air borders, and a mandatory 14-day quarantine for non-essential travellers,” tweeted Blair.
Exemptions In Place For Essential Travel
The extension means restrictions have been in place for 11 months as countries all over the world, including Canada, battle a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Citizens and permanent residents, plus their immediate and extended family members, are exempt from travel restrictions.
Canada has exemptions in place for the following people, provided they are travelling for a non-discretionary reason:
- Seasonal agricultural workers, fish/seafood workers, caregivers and all other temporary foreign workers;
- International students who held a valid study permit, or had been approved for a study permit, when the travel restrictions took effect on March 18, 2020. More international students are now allowed to travel from October 20 last year under a new exemption;
- Permanent resident applicants who had been approved for permanent residence before the travel restrictions were announced but who had not yet travelled to Canada;
- Immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents are also exempt if entering to be with an immediate family member for at least 15 days, and;
- Extended family members of citizens and permanent residents, plus foreign nationals travelling on compassionate grounds.
Canada Immigration numbers were low last year as travel restrictions dramatically impacted permanent resident arrivals.
Immigration To Canada Drops By Almost Half
The total number of new permanent residents to Canada fell by about 47.9 per cent, from 279,490 in 2019 to only 145,515 by the end of November last year.
After dropping to a low of 3,495 in April last year, the number of new permanent residents to Canada rose to 16,665 in June only to go back down and languish between 9,055 and 12,970 for every month through to the end of November as the second wave hit Canada.
Trudeau has said that everyone who wants a COVID-19 vaccine should be able to get the shot by the end of September. Ottawa is hoping that the vaccines will lead to herd immunity and curb the pandemic.