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New quarantine exemption for fully vaccinated travellers

Wednesday, June 30, 2021 @ 8:24 AM | By Daniel Lee

Daniel Lee %>
Daniel Lee
Summer has arrived and more people are planning to travel outside of Canada with their families and children. The government of Canada has recently made a timely announcement that effective July 5, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. EDT Canadian citizens, permanent residents and foreign nationals who are currently eligible to enter Canada as outlined in the current order-in-council may be exempt from the mandatory quarantine for 14 days, the mandatory hotel stay for up to three days, and the day 8 COVID-19 testing (the “Quarantine Requirements”).

Since only travellers who are currently exempt from the travel restrictions could travel to Canada, the federal government has not reopened the border for travellers for tourism purposes. However, Canada has indicated that the current travel restrictions will likely be relaxed later in the summer when more Canadians are fully vaccinated. This article will provide an overview of the new quarantine exemption policy and explain how this could affect family travelling with children who are not fully vaccinated.

Fully vaccinated is defined as the traveller has received the full series of a vaccine. This is usually two doses unless the traveller took the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The government is also allowing the traveller to fulfil the fully vaccination requirement through a combination of vaccines, and as such, vaccine mixing is allowed. For example, the first dose could be AstraZeneca and the second dose could be Moderna or Pfizer. There are four vaccines that are accepted by the government of Canada at the moment; namely, Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. The list of qualified vaccines is subject to change. The traveller may have received their vaccine in any country. However, the traveller is required to provide proof of completing the vaccination in English or French, or a certified translation. Further, unlike some countries that requires the travellers to complete the second dose within the manufacturer’s specified period, in Canada there is no requirement on maximum interval of the second dose.  

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada has introduced the ArriveCAN app to collect travellers’ travel, contact and quarantine information in order to manage the spread of the coronavirus in Canada. Under the new quarantine exemption policy being fully vaccinated does not automatically exempt the traveller from the Quarantine Requirements. This means the traveller needs to electronically submit COVID-19 related information into the ArriveCAN app within 72 hours of the traveller’s arrival in Canada and meet the pre- and on-arrival COVID-19 test requirements, be asymptomatic and have a suitable quarantine plan. The traveller must enter specific information on the ArriveCAN app, which includes travel and contact information, quarantine plan, vaccination information and COVID-19 symptoms self-assessment.

Travellers who do not have access to a mobile device to download the ArriveCAN app would not be eligible to be considered for exemption from the quarantine requirement even if the travellers are fully vaccinated. The mandatory requirement to use the ArriveCAN app to assess the traveller’s eligibility to be exempt from the quarantine requirement when the traveller is fully vaccinated has the unintended consequence of discriminating against specific groups of people.  

Prior to July 5, all travellers arriving in Canada by airplane are required to complete the mandatory hotel stay for up to three nights in order to wait for their COVID-19 test results that they have completed upon arrival at a designated Canadian airport (Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto or Montreal), and to complete the balance of the 14-day quarantine period at the quarantine site, such as the traveller’s home. Commencing July 5, travellers who are both fully vaccinated and are exempt from the current travel restrictions would be able to travel to Canada without being required to complete the mandatory hotel stay for up to three days and the quarantine requirement for the balance of the 14 days.

Health Canada has not yet approved children under 12 years of age to receive the COVID-19 vaccine due to a lack of clinical studies on children under 12 years of age. Based on the current guideline, non-vaccinated children under 18 years of age or dependent adults travelling with parents who are fully vaccinated will also be exempt from the mandatory hotel stay requirement. However, the children who are not fully vaccinated will be required to quarantine at home for 14 days. For many families who are planning trips outside of Canada, it is not practical for the children to be required to quarantine upon their return to Canada. The government of Canada should consider introducing an exemption for children so they could be exempt from the quarantine requirement if they are travelling outside of Canada with their parents or guardians who are fully vaccinated.

Moreover, if the traveller is fully vaccinated, then the traveller is exempt from the day 8 COVID-19 testing requirement. However, all other travellers must complete a post-arrival test on day 8 of their quarantine, unless they are fully vaccinated or are exempt from the requirement.

The COVID-19 pandemic in Canada is starting to become under control, with the Canadian population working towards herd immunity and more Canadians becoming fully vaccinated. The new quarantine exemption rule for fully vaccinated Canadian citizens, permanent residents and foreign nationals who are currently eligible to enter Canada as outlined in the current travel restrictions (order-in-council) will be welcomed by many people, especially families who are planning to travel this summer. However, children under 12 years of age are currently not eligible to take the vaccine and will be required to quarantine for 14 days at home upon returning to Canada. This area of law is very fluid and we hope that the above concerns for children and individuals who cannot access the ArriveCAN app could be properly addressed in order to mitigate any perceived discrimination.

Daniel Lee is a corporate immigration lawyer at Fasken. His practice focuses on corporate immigration law and employer immigration compliance. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Lee advises his clients on the frequent changes in immigration laws, including the Quarantine Act and travel exemptions.

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