Canada’s federal government is reportedly close to removing the mandatory PCR testing requirement for fully vaccinated travelers.
Multiple news reports over the weekend, including one from CBC, said that Canada is on the verge of announcing the change, allowing vaccinated Canadians who travel outside of the country to return without having to get a PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to departure.
According to Health Minister Jean Yves-Duclos, who spoke on Friday, the change could be announced sometime this week.
Major voices in the Canadian travel industry have long pushed for a relaxation of pre-travel and post-arrival rules, including the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, which helped a press conference at Toronto Pearson on Thursday.
Officials at that news conference, which featured two infectious disease physicians, argued that the spread of Omicron has made travel-testing requirements pointless and that money spent on those tests, and random tests upon arrival, is a wasted expense.
Groups in the U.S. have also pushed for the same.
Travel associations and groups in the U.S. have continued to push for the removal of the testing requirement, something they say is in the way of the industry’s full recovery, both with inbound and outbound travel. According to those groups, international travel is still down 38% compared to 2019, and that testing requirement is responsible for a lot of that gap.
Earlier this month, the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) sent a letter to the White House explaining that the testing requirement was presenting a number of practical challenges to both consumers and to its members.
“These challenges range from uncertainty as to the availability of timely testing in-destination to avoid disruption to their return trip to the financial and psychological burdens associated with being prevented from returning home due to a positive (or false positive) test result to a general chilling effect on international bookings,” ASTA president and CEO Zane Kerby wrote.
That letter was followed by another letter to the White House signed by Airlines for America, the trade group for the major American carriers, along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the International Air Transport Association, the U.S. Travel Association, and more.
That letter called the inbound testing requirement the “leading factor in the decision not to travel internationally,” and a major reason why the international travel recovery continues to lag the domestic recovery.
“Surveys of air passengers indicate that pre-departure testing is a leading factor in the decision not to travel internationally. People simply are unwilling to take the chance that they will be unable to return to the U.S.,” the letter read.
Still, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said it is still “not quite ready” to consider removing the requirement.