A group of Canadian doctors has joined with the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable (CTTR) to call on the federal government to end “unnecessary and non-science-based obstacles to international travel, such as the pre-departure and on-arrival PCR tests for fully vaccinated travellers.”

The collective has said Canada’s current COVID-19 restrictions are “obsolete and out of step with other countries worldwide” and that the vast majority of travellers and workers in the travel and tourism industry are fully vaccinated. 

McMaster University medicine professor Zain Chagla said that COVID-19 testing at the border does not make sense anymore. 

“When first put in place, Canada’s travel rules were designed to keep COVID-19 out of the country,” said Chagla in a press release on Thursday. “Now that the virus is here and community spread is responsible for approximately 99 per cent of all infections, the rules governing travel are obsolete.”

McMaster University infectious disease division director Dominik Mertz said that PCR tests should be eliminated for international travel because they can deliver positive results months after a diagnosis. 

“These Canadians may be facing a first positive test in the pre-departure testing abroad and as such may be unable to return – while no longer infectious and in fact, being the best protected travellers,” said Mertz. “This policy is unnecessarily stranding Canadians abroad, leading to travel delays, financial penalties and potentially hazardous quarantine locations.”

The CTTR called on the Canadian government to provide a reopening timeline for the travel and tourism sector as it had done with other industries across Canada. The available science, said the CTTR, has evolved –  “so too should the response and measures to keep Canadians safe while allowing the travel and tourism industry to reopen.”

Sources told CBC News that the Canadian government is close to removing mandatory PCR testing for fully vaccinated people who travel abroad. 

Currently, any person who travels outside of the country must provide a negative PCR test prior to returning home. The test must be taken within 72 hours of scheduled departure on a flight or arriving at a land border. 

“Our government is actively reviewing the measures in place at our borders, and we should be able to communicate changes on this next week,” said Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos at a press conference on Friday.