Air travellers will soon be required to test negative for COVID-19 before entering Canada.

The federal government announced Wednesday that it will require passengers to show a negative result from a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test within three days of boarding a plane to Canada. This new restriction will not replace the 14-day mandatory quarantine period for most people entering the country.

There is no set date for the implementation of mandatory testing for travellers, but Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic Leblanc said it would happen “quickly.”

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said at a press conference these new measures are an “additional layer” to existing restrictions and contribute to some of the strongest border measures in the world.

“No government in Canada can prevent Canadians from travelling, but I want to be very clear, we strongly advise against all discretionary travel,” said Blair.

“If you must travel, upon your return you must follow guidelines and quarantine. Not because it is the right thing to do, but because it is the law.”

Blair asserted that compliance would be verified regularly, and cases could be passed to law enforcement, resulting in severe consequences for non-compliance.

As well as requiring testing, the number of Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers at airports has been increased.

“We have significantly increased the presence of CBSA officers at our international airports to ensure that travellers understand their quarantine obligations,” said Blair.

While Canada has only reported 2 percent of COVID-19 cases coming from outside the border, the government is actively working to stem the flow of non-essential travel and has advised against it since the beginning of the pandemic.

High-profile instances of discretionary travel have been emerging, such as Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips taking a winter vacation in the Caribbean amidst calls – from his own government – for the public to avoid travel and gatherings.

Phillips has since been called back to Canada by Premier Doug Ford. 

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