Canada to impose mandatory COVID tests for travelers from China

Travellers crowd the departures lounge at Toronto Pearson International Airport in Mississauga

By David Shepardson

(Reuters) -Air travelers to Canada from China must test negative for COVID-19 no more than two days before departure, Ottawa said on Saturday, joining other nations that have implemented such restrictions.

The requirements, which take effect at 12:01 a.m. ET on Thursday, apply to all travelers aged 2 and older on Canadian-bound flights originating from the People's Republic of China, Hong Kong or Macao.

The temporary measure will be in place for 30 days and be reassessed as more data becomes available, the Canadian government said.

"We will adapt our measures based on available data, the science, and the epidemiological situation in our country and globally to protect Canadians," said Canadian Transport Minister Omar Alghabra in a statement.

South Korea, Spain and France on Friday joined a growing list of countries, including the United States, Britain and India, that have imposed COVID tests for travelers from China.

The U.S. testing requirements also take effect on Jan. 5.

Travelers from China to Canada and the United States who test positive more than 10 days before a flight may provide the airline with documentation of recovery in lieu of a negative test result.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said Saturday it would implement a pilot project on wastewater testing from aircraft with Vancouver airport, and expand such an existing project with Toronto Pearson airport, to assess COVID-19 prevalence in various parts of the world. Samples are sequenced to monitor for novel variants, the agency said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told Reuters earlier this week it was considering sampling wastewater taken from international aircraft to track any emerging new COVID variants.

China had kept its borders all but shut for three years, imposing a strict regime of lockdowns and relentless testing. It abruptly reversed course on Dec. 7 toward living with the virus, and infections have spread rapidly in recent weeks.

China has rejected criticism of its COVID-19 statistics and said it expects mutations to be more infectious but less severe. China will stop requiring inbound travelers to go into quarantine starting Jan. 8, but they still need a negative PCR test result within 48 hours before departure.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Mark Porter and Richard Chang)