The federal government is again ramping up border measures following the World Health Organization announcement that it had classified B.1.1.529 as a variant of concern called Omicron.
Since the WHO’s announcement, Omicron has been found in a number of countries and regions, including a number of travel-related cases confirmed in Canada.
As a result, the Canadian government is expanding the list of countries with entry prohibitions – which it announced on Nov. 26 – to include Egypt, Nigeria and Malawi. The other countries on that list are Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
And effective tomorrow, foreign nationals who have been in any of those countries within the previous 14 days will not be permitted entry into Canada.
Transport Minister, Omar Alghabra said: “Our government continues to take unprecedented and swift action to protect the health and safety of Canadians as we introduce new robust, science-based measures to prevent COVID-19 variants of concern from being spread in Canada.”
And he noted that: “The new requirements announced today (Nov 30) are a near-term, precautionary circuit breaker, which will allow us to assess the evolving situation and determine any additional measures going forward to safeguard Canadians’ health.”
Canadian citizens, permanent residents and people with status under the Indian Act, regardless of their vaccination status or having had a previous history of testing positive for COVID-19, who have been in any of these 10 countries in the previous 14 days, will be subject to enhanced pre-entry and arrival testing, screening, and quarantine measures.
Moving forward, border testing surveillance will be adjusted based on the latest available evidence to further reduce the risk of importation of this variant.
In the coming days, all fully vaccinated travellers arriving by air from departure points other than the United States will be subject to arrival testing. Fully vaccinated travellers will be required to quarantine while they await the results of their arrival test.
Minister of Health, Jean-Yves Duclos said: “We are taking quick action at our borders to mitigate travel related importations of the Omicron variant. While our monitoring systems are working well, we now know that the Omicron variant is present in Canada. We need to remain vigilant in our own actions.
The Minister of Health added: “Vaccination and simple public health measures such as masking and limiting the number of persons we interact with slow down transmission, reduce hospitalization and death, and protect our health systems from being overwhelmed. We must all continue to do our part to protect all people in Canada.”
Unvaccinated travellers, with right of entry to Canada, will continue to be tested on arrival and day 8 and quarantine for 14 days. However, those arriving by air will now be required to stay in a designated quarantine facility or other suitable location while they await the result of their on arrival test.
Minister of Public Safety, Marco Mendicino said that: “While Canadians may be concerned about the most recent variant, be assured we will continue to enforce stringent measures at our borders to protect Canadians from COVID-19. Canada Border Services Agency officers will apply all measures deemed necessary to comply with entry requirements.”
And the Minister added: “I ask all Canadians to be patient as they wait to cross the border and check to ensure you have complied with all entry requirements before arriving at the Canadian border.”
The Canadian government will continue to assess the evolving situation, monitor case data, and adjust border measures as required.
As well, the federal government Canada is working collaboratively with its provincial and territorial counterparts. While the impact of all variants continues to be monitored in Canada, vaccination in combination with public health and individual measures, is working to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and its variants.