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COVID-19: Travel Restriction Primer

February 11th, 2021  |  Travel

Are you confused about COVID-related travel restrictions and testing requirements?

You are not alone.

The move has left some Canadians – particularly snowbirds – asking questions about how to comply with the rules when travelling. Many snowbirds have already said they plan to extend their travels until Ottawa eases restrictions, says one expert.

“The majority of snowbird property owners will extend their trips and avoid the quarantine. The quarantine to them is like a curse and they want nothing to be a part of this whatsoever,” Toronto travel insurance broker Martin Firestone told CTV News.ca recently.

Travel insurance is another issue facing Canadians already out of the country as it will likely need to be extended. They should talk to their broker.

“The problem is if you have already claimed or are not feeling well, and you’re seeing a doctor, you will not get an extension. The dilemma there, is to be in the United States without any insurance is a scary thought,” Firestone said.

Another wrinkle? Canadians in the U.S. are only permitted to stay up to 182 calendar days without paying income tax there.

And, according to the Ontario Ministry of Health, residents travelling outside of Canada may only be away for a total of 212 days in any 12- month period and still maintain OHIP coverage as long as their primary residence remains in Ontario.

To weigh the implications of travel, it’s helpful to review what restrictions are already in place. Remember, being vaccinated does not exempt you from any restrictions or COVID testing requirements as well as any on the horizon in Canada or the U.S.

Here is what we know:

Departing for Canada

1) A COVID test within 72 hours of your scheduled flight’s boarding time is required from all international destinations - including the U.S. Travellers must provide written or electronic documentation of a negative test to the airline. Only a PCR or LAMP test is accepted. If it is not provided, boarding will be denied by the airline.

2) Travellers flying to Canada must use theArriveCAN website or mobile app to submit information prior to boarding about:

  • Travel/contact information
  • Your quarantine plan
  • COVID-19 symptom self-assessments

Arriving in Canada

  • On Jan. 29, 2021, Ottawa announced international air passengers will soon also be required to also take a PCR COVID test at the airport upon arrival. These requirements will take effect Feb. 22.
  • International flights are limited to Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver airports.
  • Ontario has introduced mandatory COVID testing for international passengers arriving at the Toronto airport beginning Feb. 1, 2021. It is a stopgap measure until the new federal program takes effect. Anyone refusing the test will be fined $750.

Mandatory hotel quarantine:

  • On Jan. 29, 2021, Ottawa said all arriving international air passengers will soon be required to stay in a supervised government-approved quarantine hotel - at their own expense -until their test results come back (approximately 3 days). The cost for this testing and hotel stay has been pegged at approximately $2,000 per person. These requirements will take effect Feb. 22.
  • If you test negative, the remainder of your 14-day quarantine can be at home under increased surveillance. A positive test means you will be required to go to a government-run quarantine centre. There is no charge.
  • Travellers may be required to be tested again on Day 10 of their quarantine, regardless of their initial result.
  • Violating any quarantine instructions provided could lead to up to six months in prison and/or up-to $750,000 in fines.

Entering Canada by land

A 72-hour pre-arrival COVID test (PCR) will be required for non-essential travellers as of Feb. 15. While border officers cannot legally deny entry to Canadians – such as snowbirds - those who show up without proof of a test could face fines up to $3,000. This requirement is in addition to the mandatory 14-day quarantine period.

Flights to Sun destinations cancelled

Canada's main airlines have cancelled service to Caribbean and Mexico sun destinations up to April 30. Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing, and Air Transat are contacting customers now in those regions to arrange their return.

Entering the U.S. by land

Canadians cannot go to the U.S. by land for “non-essential” travel. The border is closed until at least Feb. 21 and may be extended.

Entering the U.S. by air

  • As of Jan. 26, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requires all travellers to get tested for COVID-19 no more than 72 hours before their flight departs and to present the negative test result to the airline before boarding. Otherwise, they will be denied boarding.
  • The applies to all air passengers, 2 or older, including U.S. citizens and permanent residents. The test must be a viral test (not antibody). If you’ve already had COVID-19 and meet certain criteria, you may present “documentation of recovery”. Learn more here.

Where do Canadians get a COVID test to fly to the U.S.?

  • In most provinces, free COVID testing is not available to individuals needing a test for travel. They must use a private lab, travel medical clinic, or other private company that provides testing that meets CDC criteria.
  • The cost in Canada varies but ranges from $160 - $250 per test.

Mandatory Quarantine Upon Arrival in the U.S.

Travelling during the pandemic can pose health risks and, for Canadians who do, they must be aware restrictions can be altered at any time without warning.

RELATED READING: www.travel.gc.ca for Canadian travel requirement updates

Use the Registration of Canadians Abroad service to receive updates affecting you.

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