Today the government of Canada issued a travel advisory saying that Canadians should avoid all nonessential international travel because of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant. The current advisory will last for at least four weeks but could be extended. The reinstatement of the warning against foreign travel comes less than two months after the government had lifted its original advisory against nonessential travel, which had been in place since March 2020. (Canada has also recently announced strict travel bans on some countries following the rapid spread of the variant.)
“We see the situation abroad, and we’re afraid and concerned with what could happen to Canadians who would choose to go abroad in the next few weeks,” said Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, during a news briefing. “To those who were planning to travel, I say very clearly, now is not the time to travel.”
“The rapid spread of the Omicron variant on a global scale makes us fear the worst for Canadians that may think of travelling. Travelling Canadians could contract the virus, or get stranded abroad,” Duclos said.
“The situation abroad is already dire in many places, and it’s going to get worse very quickly. So we are afraid for what could happen to them if they chose to travel. And once they have left Canada, there is very little we can do to help them,” he said.
While Canadian government officials have hinted that other travel restrictions may be announced soon, the border between the U.S. and Canada will remain open. Additionally, the recent rule change to allow people who are fully vaccinated and traveling by land to not provide a negative Covid-19 test for trips that are less than 72 hours will remain in place for the time being.
The government issued a press release stating the reasons for its decision for advising against international travel. “On November 26th, 2021, a new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19, Omicron, was designated a variant of concern (VOC) by the World Health Organization. The Omicron variant is present in all continents, with community transmission of this VOC reported in some countries. This variant has a large number of concerning mutations, with preliminary evidence suggesting a growth advantage over the Delta VOC and a potential decrease in vaccine protection against infection. The Government of Canada is closely monitoring the situation and working with its international partners including the World Health Organization to better understand this variant and its impacts.
Many foreign governments are implementing strict travel restrictions due to spread of the Omicron variant and international transportation options may be limited. As a result, you may have difficulty returning to Canada, or may have to remain abroad for an indeterminate period.
Local authorities abroad may impose control measures suddenly, including movement restrictions such as lockdowns. In some countries, you may have limited access to timely and appropriate health care should you become ill.”
The release goes on to note that if Canadians must travel internationally, that they should monitor and review Canada’s entry requirements before and during their trip as “arrival to Canada following international travel could be severely restricted due to the spread of the Omicron variant.” Furthermore, all eligible travellers should be vaccinated at least 14 days before travelling.
This release emphasizes that government advisories will continue to be re-evaluated based on the evolving situation in Canada and in other countries.