Ottawa again advises against overseas travel

Those planning to travel internationally over the holidays should reconsider their plans given the risk of the Omicron variant disrupting their stay, the federal government warns, although the latest available data suggests that fewer travelers than ever are bringing the virus home. .

“To people who are planning to travel, I say very clearly: this is not the time to travel,” Federal Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Guided “by caution”, the minister indicated to make this recommendation out of concern for travelers, in a context where the transmission of the Omicron variant internationally “makes him fear the worst”.

The notice, although optional, “may seem draconian” to travelers, believes Mr. Duclos. It must be interpreted as a warning that the federal government will not be able to come to their aid if the world health situation were to deteriorate. Travelers could fall ill in another country, warns Jean-Yves Duclos, or even get stuck abroad following the cancellation of flights or because of new measures imposed at the borders.

“Once a Quebecer, a Canadian has left the country […], there is little the Canadian government can do to help. […] We are worried about the fate of Canadians abroad, and that foreshadows additional measures that we may need to put in place. “

The Government of Canada’s website was updated during the day to ask citizens to “avoid all non-essential travel abroad, regardless of their immunization status”. The recommendations remain unchanged for foreigners who wish to visit the country.

Fewer border cases

Federal ministers on Wednesday did not discuss any particular health risk for Canada posed by international travel, preferring to stress the risks to the travelers themselves.

Indeed, fewer travelers are bringing the virus home, as vaccination rates rise, according to federal data compiled by The duty. During the first months of 2021, between 1.4% and 2.1% of COVID-19 tests carried out at airports on arrival of travelers came back positive; these rates are now about ten times lower, as the overwhelming majority of passengers are vaccinated.

Since August 9, just 0.14% of tests carried out on arrival with fully vaccinated passengers have come back positive, according to the latest available data, which does not include the month of December. Of the air travelers who arrived between mid-September and mid-November, approximately 89% were fully vaccinated. As of November 30, only people vaccinated against COVID-19 have been allowed to board a plane.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Theresa Tam, acknowledged that “the virus [sous forme du variant Omicron] is in our communities, and the bulk of public health resources must be devoted to this ”.

The government science adviser even politely criticized the maintenance of a list of ten African countries in which no foreign national can have stayed in the 14 days preceding their entry into Canada. “I believe this policy needs to be reconsidered,” she said. The Omicron variant is now widespread around the world.

According to Theresa Tam, the federal recommendation to abandon all travel plans is just one more “layer of protection”, among many others, in a context where authorities must instead be concerned with transmission within borders. Canadian.

All air travelers must have on hand a negative result to a PCR test carried out within three days before their return, and this, since January 2021. From February, they were also required to perform a second test upon arrival in Canada. After August 9, however, only those randomly selected vaccinated were required to undergo this second screening upon arrival. This became mandatory again on 1is December for all passengers not arriving from the United States.

Omicron already here

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday he understood “how really boring it is”, especially for those whose federal opinion has screwed up travel plans. “But the reality is that the Omicron variant is already here,” he added. And border measures are not everything. “

He judges that to restrict travel even more would be “extremely difficult”, given “that there are always exceptional cases, there are always families who need to see each other, there are always situations which need. of compassion ”.

“We find that to strongly recommend not to travel [et] imposing additional screening measures at airports will do our part with regard to borders, and leave resources to support the provinces in their fight against community transmission, which is the great danger now, ”concluded Justin Trudeau.

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