The Federal Government slaps more restrictions on Canadian travelers
Christmas is supposed to be an opportune time of the year for families to get away together over the holidays. Kids are out of school and it’s a great opportunity for some families to head to a sunny destination to celebrate the holidays. Travelling hasn’t exactly been easy lately, since Covid 19 travel restrictions have been put in place. And just when we are beginning to think things are finally getting somewhat back to normal, the government slaps yet another travel ban on Canadian travelers.
Beginning December 21, Canada is stepping up its requirements for travelers once again. Anyone entering the country will be required to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test result before being allowed to enter Canada.
We should have all seen it coming. Every holiday they seem to tighten the restrictions around Covid-19. Two steps forward, and three steps back. Perhaps the feds changed the rules because they worry about the spread of the virus over the Christmas holidays and an increased number of parties and family gatherings?
Interestingly enough, it was just last month when the Canadian Government announced that fully vaccinated Canadians no longer had to show their negative test results when they returned from an out of the country trip that was less than 72 hours. However, if the vacation was longer than 72 hours, travelers would need to show their negative Covid test results at the airport.
“It makes you wonder if they actually know what they are talking about because they seem to change their recommendations fairly often,” said one concerned citizen via social media.
“It’s hard to keep up with all these changes in rules regarding Covid-19 restrictions,” said another. While other Canadians are turning to social media, saying things such as; “Enough is enough already. They have locked us up way too long. Boredom is setting in and we are all getting stir crazy.”
Canadians have spent the last 2 years avoiding travel, family visits, and many events that see large gatherings of people. Many feel like it is soon time to get back to some sort of normalcy by removing the face mask coverings altogether and lifting the restrictions facing Canadians like other places have done around the world.
Instead of loosening the ropes, however, “as of December 21, a new requirement for pre-arrival testing in Canada will come into effect again for trips of all durations,” said Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos on Friday.
Ironically, Canadian officials also announced that the travel ban from African countries will lift on Saturday, which Duclos believes to be “controversial.”
The number of passengers being tested at Canadian airports has also drastically increased. There have been 20,960 tests given this week compared to just 11,000 in late November. The goal is to make sure that as many people as possible get tested for Covid-19 upon landing at the airport. Perhaps this is because of families getting together over the holidays, creating a higher chance of spreading the virus.
This new method of testing more travelers also comes just days after Canada reinstated the travel advisory that had been in place for over a year and a half from March 2020 until October 2021.
The most recent travel advisory urges all Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel outside of the country because of the new Omicron variant of Covid-19. The Feds hope that by limiting travel in and out of the country, they can contain the spread of the new strain of the virus.
“If people still plan on traveling despite the travel advisory, those traveling abroad will be at a greater risk of coming in contact with the variant, they’ll also risk being stranded for indefinite periods of time,” Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said on Friday.
Provinces across Canada are putting restrictions in place to reduce the continuing spread of the virus. Restaurants, bars, churches, theatres, and entertainment facilities are now required to operate at 50% capacity. The federal government has also canceled all sporting events until further notice under the new federal requirements.
With Covid-19 cases soaring in Quebec, they have shut down all schools, bars, theaters, and gyms until further notice.
The government has also changed its decision to increase the maximum number of people allowed at indoor gatherings over Christmas to 20 people. Instead, it will remain at a maximum of 10 people indoors.
They have also put restrictions in place in British Columbia regarding capacity limits to help put a stop to the spread of the Covid-19 Omicron variant. British Columbia has followed suit with a capacity limit of 50% in bars and restaurants across the province. While Newfoundland and Labrador have restricted their bar capacities to 50%, and restaurants to 75% capacity with physical distancing requirements strictly in place.
B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, stated “the provincial restrictions will stay in place for at least six weeks.”
Meanwhile, Ontario has also followed suit in the decision to implement new public health orders because of the latest Covid-19 Omicron variant. Restaurants, retail stores, and indoor fitness facilities will also reduce their capacity limits to 50%. Although theatres may remain open in Ontario, some companies are canceling their shows to help put an end to the rising cases of the Omicron Covid-19 variant bombarding the province.
Plans are on hold until July to bring the “Hamilton” musical to Ottawa’s National Arts Centre, which was originally scheduled for next month.
Booster shots are also going to be mandatory in Ontario. However, the wait time is currently longer than a week for an appointment, as several people are quickly reserving their spots in line because of the scare of the Omicron variant across the province.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Christie Elliott’s office confirmed that over 125,000 online appointments were booked throughout the province on Monday morning.
Alexandra Hilkene, a spokeswoman for Elliott, stated, “We are pleased to see so many Canadians take the time to ensure powerful protection against the new Omicron variant.”
Some common symptoms of COVID-19
Although COVID-19 may affect everyone differently, here is a list of some common symptoms as reported by the Public Health Agency of Canada. Most people infected with Covid-19 may exhibit the following symptoms and usually recover from their illnesses without hospitalization.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 may include:
- loss of smell and taste and appetite
Less common symptoms of Covid-19 may include:
- mild body aches and pains
- a skin rash
- discoloration in toes or fingers
- a red, itchy, or irritated eyes
Symptoms of the new Omicron variant may include:
- cough, or sneeze
- fatigue, or tiredness
- runny nose
- chest congestion
- sore or scratchy throat
Public Health Agency of Canada’s current travel restrictions
The Public Health Agency of Canada strongly advises all Canadians, regardless of their vaccination status, to avoid all unnecessary international travel because of the new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. This new strain of the COVID-19 virus is a major concern according to the World Health Organization. It has quickly spread to all continents of the world. There is also evidence that vaccinations may not protect against contracting this new strain of the virus.
The Canadian government is monitoring the situation and working closely with the World Health Organization to study the effects of this new variant around the globe. Because of the impact of this new strain of variants, many foreign governments are placing restrictions on international travel. Because of this decision, returning to Canada from abroad may be difficult for an undetermined amount of time. They may even require travelers to remain abroad until the travel ban is over. In many foreign locations, there are also strict control measures in place, such as lockdowns and decreased capacity limits. You may also find it difficult to get healthcare if you become ill in foreign countries during the current lockdown.
If you absolutely must travel during COVID
The Government of Canada’s website offers several measures to take if you feel that you absolutely must travel for work or to attend a funeral, or any other relevant reasons for travel, including the following:
- Monitor the entry requirements to and from Canada often, as they can change quickly as the spread of the Omicron variant continues to grow. They can restrict arrivals back to Canada if they feel it is a necessary requirement to contain the spread of the virus.
- All travelers must be up to date on their vaccinations at least 14 days prior to their travel date. According to statistics, evidence proves that being vaccinated is effective at lowering the severity of the illness associated with Covid-19. A decrease in hospitalization and deaths from COVID-19 is also apparent.
- While the vaccination provides some protection against the illness associated with the virus, there is still a risk of contacting COVID-19 if exposed to others with the virus.
- The government also recommends visiting a health care provider or a health clinic at least 6 weeks prior to traveling abroad.
- Pay close attention to the current restrictions listed for your travel destination. Details can change quickly without notice and may put a damper on your travel plans and present the possibility of not being able to return home again due to abrupt lockdowns and changes in circumstances within a country or different region.
Additional advice from the Government of Canada regarding travel during COVID-19
Additional measures instated by the Canadian Government will continue to be monitored regularly as the situation develops within Canada and other countries around the world. The Government of Canada also advises travelers to take responsibility if they decide to travel abroad, follow all safety precautions in place, and plan to find their way back home through the restrictions and lockdowns that may be in place at their destination of travel. Before traveling, the Government of Canada advises all travelers to:
- Stay home if you have any symptoms related to COVID-19, even if they are mild, you are in quarantine, you are waiting for test results, or if you have been in close contact with anyone who may have COVID-19.
- If you are not sick and feel that you absolutely must travel, check for the latest requirements for your travel destination, including entrance and exit requirements, and travel advice and advisories found on the Government of Canada’s website.
- You must get a COVID-19 molecular test at your travel destination before returning to Canada.
- Locate contact information for the Canadian embassy nearest to your travel destination and keep it handy, in case you may need to consult them regarding your return to Canada.
- Be aware that many insurance companies do not cover medical costs arising from an illness from COVID-19. Consult your insurance provider beforehand.
- During your trip, stay on top of the current situation as health advice and travel regulations may change quickly.
- Wear a properly fitting mask in all public locations when advised to do so.
- Keep a safe distance from other people outside your immediate household or group of travelers, avoid handshakes, or touching, and make sure to wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
What’s happening today with the Omicron outbreak?
Today, the Omicron outbreak continues to reap havoc around the world. In Eastern Ontario, there were 160,000 people reported to have contracted the new strain of the illness thus far. In Ontario as a whole, reports suggest it has had the highest single-day cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. However, the number of people requiring hospitalization has gone down, according to the Kingston Health Sciences Centre.
Because of the milder nature of this new strain of the virus, there is hope that people will remain out of the hospitals and can recover on their own at home while isolating and adhering to government orders.
All this recent news about the Omicron variant has really put a damper on many people’s holiday travel plans and social gatherings this holiday season. As the holidays are now upon us, at least we can all be thankful for a white Christmas. Once again, families will spend Christmas with small gatherings of under 10 people per household in an effort to put a stop to this virus that has seemed to have taken over the past two years of our lives. It is hoped by many that we will soon see an end in sight to the pandemic and we can all get back to some sort of normalcy.