Airline passengers entering Canada need a negative COVID test starting Thursday

TORONTO (AP) — The Canadian government said Wednesday that all airline passengers entering the country must have a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days before they arrive in the country.

According to the website for the Ministry of Transport, the new rule goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 7, and applies to all air passengers over the age of five. Only molecular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) results will be accepted and the test must have been performed within 72 hours of the traveler’s departure time.

Even with a negative test, passengers will still be required to begin a 14-day quarantine. Travelers must file their quarantine lodging plans and contact information via the ArriveCAN smartphone app or website. If a government official does not approve their quarantine plan, the traveler may be ordered to spend it at a federal facility.

Canada has already banned all flights from the United Kingdom because of the new variant of COVID-19 spreading there.

The decision to require negative tests for airline passengers came a day after the premier of Canada’s largest province said he had ordered his finance minister to end a Caribbean vacation he took at a time when the government is urging people to avoid nonessential travel because of the pandemic.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Wednesday it is “unacceptable” that Finance Minister Rod Phillips went to the French island of St. Barts for the holidays.

“We’re going to have a very tough conversation when he gets back,” Ford said. “There can’t be rules for elected people and non-elected people.”

Ford said Phillips “never told anyone” he was leaving but Ford said he knew Phillips was out of the country “shortly after he arrived.”

“My mistake. I take full responsibility. At that time, I should have said ‘get your backside back into Ontario’ and I didn’t do that,” Ford said.

The finance minister’s Twitter account had suggested that he was in Ontario while he has been in St. Barts. In a video posted on Christmas Eve, he was shown sitting by a fireplace with a gingerbread house and a little Christmas tree and drinking eggnog.

Phillips said he was returning immediately.

Opposition parties called for Phillips to be removed from cabinet.

Phillips also travelled to Switzerland in August.

“Some Canadians are still travelling for nonessential reasons. This is deeply concerning. We must reiterate that now is not the time to travel,” Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said Wednesday.

Ontario began a provincewide lockdown on Dec. 26 and Ford has been blaming travelers for bringing the new coronavirus to the province.

Canada’s national government and the Ontario government have both repeatedly asked Canadians not to travel abroad during the pandemic.

The Ford government already was being criticized for halting vaccination operations over the holidays and for delaying a provincewide lockdown until the day after Christmas.

Ontario set a new daily record for cases on Wednesday with 2,923, with just over one-third of them in the country’s largest city of Toronto.

Canada’s land borders with the U.S., which have been shut to all but essential traffic since mid-March, are slated to remain closed until at least Jan. 21.

Border closure extended:  US borders with Canada, Mexico to stay closed through at least Jan. 21

Contributing: Jayme Deerwester, USA TODAY

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