On December 31, 2020, the Government of Canada announced new restrictions that will apply to all airline passengers entering Canada.

Effective January 7, 2021, at 12:01 a.m. EST, Canada will require each international air traveller five years of age or older to provide proof of a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID-19 test completed within 72 hours “prior to the traveller’s scheduled departure to Canada.” Proof of a negative test will be a prerequisite for boarding any flight to Canada, and the new requirement does not negate an individual’s obligation to comply with the mandatory 14-day quarantine required upon entry to Canada and with other travel restrictions that are already in place across the country.

In announcing the new measures, the Government of Canada referenced the need to “help prevent air travel from being a source of further introduction and spread of COVID-19 and new variants of the virus into Canada.” One such variant, first identified in the United Kingdom, has been reported to have a higher rate of transmission than other existing strains of the virus.

Key Takeaways for Employers

Employers with employees entering Canada by plane may want to keep a close eye on the new requirements.

Pre-departure COVID-19 testing and proof of negative results will be added to the list of restrictions already being enforced for travel to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the following requirements:

  • All incoming travellers must submit their travel information and quarantine/isolation location information electronically via the ArriveCAN
  • All incoming travellers must be screened for COVID-19, regardless of their country of origin or mode of entry.
  • Travellers to Canada for nonessential purposes must quarantine for 14 days upon entry.
  • All incoming travellers must complete daily self-assessments, and their contact tracing information will be shared with provinces and territories for quarantine enforcement.

In addition, it is widely expected that international travellers will be subject to testing upon arrival at Toronto Pearson International Airport in Ontario. A pilot program involving rapid testing of international arrivals has previously been implemented at Calgary International Airport in Alberta.

Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor and report on developments with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic and will post updates in the firm’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center as additional information becomes available. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar and podcast programs.

Stephen Shore is a partner in the Toronto office of Ogletree Deakins.

Caroline M. DeBruin is a 2020 graduate of Queen’s University, Faculty of Law, and an articling student in the Toronto office of Ogletree Deakins.