Canada to require negative COVID test for travellers from China, including Hong Kong and Macau


With surging cases of COVID-19 in China, the Government of Canada announced Saturday afternoon travellers by aircraft from China will be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test in order to enter the country.

The policy applies to all air passengers who are two years of age and older on flights originating from Mainland China, as well as Hong Kong and Macau.

Similar to Canada’s previous policies earlier in the pandemic, the required negative test — negative molecular, such as a PCR test, or a negative antigen test — must be taken no more than two days before departure, and submitted to the airline before boarding.

This temporary requirement will go into effect starting at 12:01 EST on Thursday, January 5, 2023. This applies to all travellers, regardless of nationality and vaccination status.

The mandatory negative test requirement will be in place for 30 days, at which point its continuation will be reassessed based on the developing pandemic situation in China.

Passengers who tested positive over 10 days before their departure, but no more than 90 days, can provide the airline with documentation of their prior positive test, instead of a new negative test result.

The Canadian federal government’s new policies on air passengers arriving from China closely follows the precautionary testing policies put in place by other countries earlier this week, including the United States, United Kingdom, and Japan.

“The safety of travellers and the transportation industry remain top priorities,” said Omar Alghabra, the Canadian minister of of transport, in a statement.

“Our Government continues to take unprecedented action to protect the health and safety of Canadians by introducing measures to prevent further introduction and transmission of COVID-19 into Canada. We will adapt our measures based on available data, the science, and the epidemiological situation in our country and globally to protect Canadians.”

There are growing concerns over the severity of the pandemic in China ever since the Chinese government relaxed nearly all of its strict “Zero COVID” measures early this month, in response to widespread nationwide protests over the prolonged limit to freedoms and the impact to the economy. According to a report by Bloomberg, based on internal documents by the Chinese government, it is estimated about 250 million people in China — about one-fifth of the country’s population — may have caught COVID-19 over the first 20 days of December.

There are also reports of hospitals overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, and long delays for cremation services, with photos shared on social media showing long lines outside funeral homes — scenes very much reminiscent to the early days of the pandemic.

Throughout the pandemic, the Chinese government has greatly limited the sharing of verifiable epidemiological and viral genomic sequence data with the global community, including helpful data on identifying coronavirus variants of concern.

Additionally, China’s vaccination rate is relatively low, and it relies on its own homemade vaccines, which are less effective than Western vaccines — such as those made by Pfizer and Moderna. However, Western vaccines are available in China’s semi-autonomous governing regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

In response to the sweeping changes to Mainland China’s policies, Hong Kong followed suit and lifted most of its coronavirus health safety rules.

As an additional precautionary measure, the Public Health Agency of Canada has implemented a pilot project on testing the wastewater from aircrafts at Vancouver International Airport, while also expanding an existing pilot project at Toronto Pearson International Airport. This allows Canadian health authorities to track the severity and variants of the coronavirus around the world.

“British Columbia will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation in China and around the world closely while working with federal partners to ensure the public is protected and informed of COVID-19 related concerns,” said Adrian Dix, the BC minister of health.

“Anyone planning on travelling to China should ensure they are fully up to date with vaccinations and take extra precautions to avoid becoming ill, as access to health care may be limited. Travellers should also review the Government of Canada’s travel advisories when considering travel to China.”

Source : Daily Hive