1 of 5 | Canada's health minister on Thursday announced the nation will no longer require fully vaccinated travelers to provide a negative COVID-19 test before entering the country beginning April 1. File Photo by Andre Pichette/EPA-EFE
March 17 (UPI) -- Canada on Thursday announced it will end COVID-19 testing requirements for fully vaccinated travelers at the beginning of next month.
Canadian Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said that individuals who have received at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine recognized by the World Health Organization will not be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before entering the country by air, land or water beginning at 12:01 a.m. on April 1.
"We are in a much better position today than in 2020," Duclos said. "High vaccination rates and strong adherence to public health measures have pushed us through the peak of the Omicron wave."
The announcement came as Canada reported more than 35,000 new COVID-19 cases within the past week, down significantly from its record high weekly case count of 268,181, in January, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University.
Partially and unvaccinated travelers will still be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before and after arrival to enter the country in addition to quarantining for 14 days. Fully vaccinated individuals may still be randomly selected to take a molecular test upon arrival.
Duclos said around 10% of people arriving in Canada tested positive for COVID-19 and that rate has currently fallen to around 1%, but the government will still remain vigilant to respond to the potential emergence of new variants
"If we see that we need to adjust measures, we will obviously do that," Duclos said.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he expects Canadians to remain careful despite the nation lifting various restrictions related to the virus.
"All Canadians are pretty damn tired of two years of this pandemic and eager to get back to normal as much as possible," he said at a separate event north of Toronto. "As measures are eased and adjusted across the country, Canadians will of course benefit from that, but also, I know, continue to keep in mind the choices needed from context to context to keep themselves and their loved ones safe."
Randy Boissonnault, Canada's minister of tourism and associate minister of finance, said the new rules will make it easier for people to travel to Canada.
"And they will come," Boissonnault said. "With our high vaccination rates and our focus on health and safety, Canada has a huge advantage in attracting visitors because they know it's safe to travel to Canada."
Air Canada welcomed the announcement as "excellent news for the entire travel and tourism industry," in a statement Thursday.
"The removal of pre-departure testing requirements will continue to accelerate and stimulate the recovery of Canada's travel and tourism industry, which we are committed to help rebuild through the restoration of our global network," said David Rheault, Air Canada's vice president of government and community relations.
U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., on Thursday sent a pair of letters to Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden calling for all COVID-19 vaccine requirements to be lifted for all travelers at land ports of entry.
Higgins wrote that the requirements, "inhibit cross-border travel, the flow of commerce and create an unnecessary barrier to the eventual resumption of pre-pandemic levels of cross-border activity."
"Based on current trends, I believe it is time to follow the science and remove the remaining restrictions at the U.S. and Canadian borders to allow Americans and Canadians to move freely across," he added.