PCR travel tests remain because Canada’s not ‘out of the woods yet,’ Tam says

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Officials say Canada is unwilling to eliminate the COVID-19 PCR test requirement for fully vaccinated travelers, despite lifting a blanket advisory against non-essential travel.

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Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr Theresa Tam told reporters during a news conference on Friday that while officials are reviewing protective measures at border entries, the country is not yet “out of the woods.”

“I have to remind people that the pandemic is very much alive outside of Canada,” she said.

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“Many countries require pre-departure testing, and it adds a layer of security for any traveler – not just Canadians arriving in Canada but travelers from any corner of the world, so it’s something like which we shall see.”

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Tam’s comments come later The federal government quietly withdrew its advisory Against all non-essential travel abroad, which was introduced in March 2020 due to the pandemic.

However, the easier measures only apply to fully vaccinated travelers.

The government advises that international travelers should be fully vaccinated for at least 14 days before travelling, and follow local public health guidelines in the country they are visiting.

While Canada is seeing a decline in its fourth wave, parts of the country are still battling COVID-19, Tam said.

In Saskatchewan, rising infections and hospitalizations have pushed the health care system to the brink of transferring patients to Ontario for care. The death toll continues, with the province having recorded 800 deaths till Thursday.

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“Now is not the time to go anywhere independently,” Tam said, adding officials will guide in the coming weeks to help travelers with their leisure choices.

“Next month, as I describe it, one would expect some ups and downs along the way in our pandemic trajectory,” she said.

“We just have to be a little careful because we’re trying to keep our schools, workplaces and other socially and economically important places as open as possible during the winter season.”

Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, Dr. Howard Njou, told reporters in French that fully vaccinated Canadians should be aware of the “risks and benefits of travel” if they decide to book a vacation.

“It is very important to consider the epidemiological situation and the vaccination coverage of your destination,” he said. “It is also important to consider what public health measures abroad or border restrictions are in place.”

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Chambers of trade, commerce and tourism organizations in both the United States and Canada are calling on the federal government to drop its requirement for proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test between countries.

“What we hope to get is just showing a vaccination card, as you would for theater, music or sports,” Guy Ochiogrosso, CEO of the Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce, previously told Granthshala News.

Private companies offer tests for over $200 in most locations.

“When both sides of the boundary align and this is what we all experience as a new normal, then we will see an increase in normal activity.”

—With files from Richard Zusman and Kelly Skjrven

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