Feds to reinstate testing for foreign air travel, reviewing booster strategy in light of Omicron

OTTAWA — Canada is reviewing its vaccine booster strategy, adding new countries to the list of nations subjected to federal travel restrictions, and is imposing new testing requirements on all air travellers coming from outside of Canada with the exception of the U.S., due to concerns over the Omicron variant.

Federal ministers and public health officials announced Tuesday this during an update on the latest measures Canada is taking in response to the variant of concern.

“All air travelers coming from outside Canada, apart from the United States, will now need to be tested at the airport in which they are landing in Canada whether they are vaccinated or unvaccinated. They will then need to isolate themselves until they get the result of their test,” said Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos.

Nigeria, Malawi and Egypt will join seven other African countries— South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini—that the federal government moved to restrict travellers from on Friday.

The policy bans the entry into Canada of all foreign nationals who travelled to these countries in the last 14 days.

The federal cabinet discussed the evolving situation surrounding Omicron at a closed-door cabinet meeting Tuesday morning.

Six confirmed cases of the variant of concern have been confirmed in this country so far, with public health officials cautioning that more cases will likely be discovered in the coming days.

Over the last few days questions have emerged over whether Canada should be imposing further travel restrictions or bans from more countries, or broadening its COVID-19 booster shot administration approach in wake of the growing threat.

“Obviously we’re watching very, very closely the situation with Omicron,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on his way into the cabinet meeting. “There may be more we need to do and we’ll be looking at it very carefully.”

Travel banWhile Ontario, Quebec, and now Alberta are the first provinces to confirm detected cases of the variant, health officials across the country have commenced targeted testing of people who have travelled from one of the seven southern African countries under the current federal travel restrictions.

Omicron has been linked to a rapid rise in cases in South Africa where vaccination rates are low compared to Canada, and health officials have said that it remains unclear just how transmissible and severe infection by the highly-mutated variant B.1.1.529 might be.

With files from CTV News’ Nicole Bogart and Hannah Jackson

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