Canada is increasing airport testing for international flights

Toronto, Canada- March 28, 2018: Interior view of Toronto Pearson Airport in Toronto, Canada. Pearson is the largest and busiest airport in Canada.

Canada is increasing testing requirements for international travellers and dropping its travel ban on flights from 10 African countries as the government tries to quash the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

Starting Monday, all travellers will once again need to get a COVID-19 molecular test before returning to Canada. The announcement from Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos rolls back an exemption announced last month that fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents taking short trips abroad, under 72 hours, wouldn't need proof of a negative test to return home

Friday's announcement is on top of the warning earlier this week to avoid non-essential travel over the holidays as the variant rages around the world.

The federal government changed its official guidance to advise Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel outside the country for the time being.

"To those who were planning to travel, I say very clearly — now is not the time to travel. The rapid spread of the Omicron variant on a global scale makes us fear the worst," Duclos said Wednesday.

Earlier this morning, the Canadian Airports Council issued a statement lamenting that confusion around testing at airports, and travel advisories, are causing avoidable

"The decision to impose a blanket travel advisory, plus the ongoing confusion about arrivals testing at airports, has created a great deal of uncertainty for Canadians, particularly just prior to the holiday season, adversely affecting lives and livelihoods," said spokesperson Debra Ward.

"Canadians would be better served if the federal government were to step away from restricting travel and instead focus on what we know works to slow the virus: ramping up vaccinations, implementing standardized and predictable testing (including at-home and rapid testing), and continued social distancing and masking."

Friday's announcement also included reneging the ban on flights from 10 African countries, a measure that garnered criticism for needlessly punishing countries even though Omicron is already spreading in Canada. The ban covered flights from South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, Namibia, Nigeria, Malawi and Egypt.

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