Public health authorities in South Africa have confirmed that a new COVID-19 variant of concern (B.1.1.529) has been detected in that country. Over the past 24 hours, this variant – named Omicron by the World Health Organization — has also been detected in other countries. At this time, the variant has not been detected in Canada.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Government of Canada has put measures in place at our border to reduce the risk of the importation and transmission of COVID-19 and its variants in Canada related to international travel. Today, the Minister of Transport, the Honourable Omar Alghabra and the Minister of Health, the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, announced new border measures to protect the health and safety of Canadians.
As a precautionary measure, until January 31, 2022, the Government of Canada is implementing enhanced border measures for all travellers who have been in the Southern Africa region — including South Africa, Eswatini, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Namibia— within the last 14 days before arriving in Canada.
Foreign nationals who have travelled in any of these countries within the previous 14 days will not be permitted entry into Canada.
Canadian citizens, permanent residents and people with status under the Indian Act, regardless of their vaccination status or having had a previous history of testing positive for COVID-19, who have been in these countries in the previous 14 days will be subject to enhanced testing, screening, and quarantine measures.
These individuals will be required to obtain, within 72 hours of departure, a valid negative COVID-19 molecular test in a third country before continuing their journey to Canada. Upon arrival to Canada, regardless of their vaccination status or having had a previous history of testing positive for COVID-19, they will subject to immediate arrival testing. All travellers will also be required to complete a test on day 8 after arrival and quarantine for 14 days
All travellers will be referred to Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) officials to ensure they have a suitable quarantine plan. Those arriving by air will be required to stay in a designated quarantine facility while they await their arrival test result. They will not be permitted onward travel until their quarantine plan has been approved and they have received a negative arrival test result.
Those arriving by land may be allowed to proceed directly to their suitable isolation location. If they do not have a suitable plan — where they will not have contact with anyone they haven’t travelled with — or do not have private transportation to their place of quarantine, they will be directed to stay at a designated quarantine facility
There will be increased scrutiny of quarantine plans for travellers from these countries and rigorous monitoring to ensure travellers are complying with quarantine measures. Further, travellers, regardless of their vaccination status or having had a previous history of testing positive for COVID-19, who have entered Canada from these countries in the past 14 days will be contacted and directed to be tested and to quarantine while they wait for the results of those tests. There are no exemptions specifically provided for in these new requirements.
The Government of Canada advises Canadians to avoid travelling to countries in this region and will continue to monitor the situation to inform current or future actions.
Canada continues to maintain pre-entry molecular testing for vaccinated and unvaccinated international travellers arriving from any country to reduce the risk of importation of COVID-19 including variants. PHAC has also been monitoring case data, through mandatory randomized testing upon entry into Canada.
The Government of Canada will continue to assess the evolving situation and adjust border measures as required. While the impact of all variants continues to be monitored in Canada, vaccination, in combination with public health and individual measures, is working to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and its variants.