OTTAWA – Fully vaccinated Canadians will soon no longer need a negative COVID-19 test to re-enter the country if they take short trips abroad, the federal government announced Friday.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the eliminated testing requirement will apply to all fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents, and individuals registered under Indian Law who are out of the country for less than 72 hours, starting on the 30th. of November.

The new rule will not apply to foreign nationals, including international students and foreign workers living in Canada.

The move comes after business groups asked the federal government to remove the testing requirement for vaccinated travelers, as advised by a government-appointed panel of experts earlier this month. Moments after the change was announced, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce released a statement saying that maintaining the proof requirement for Americans and travelers from other countries was like “putting a one-way gate at the border, which that will have serious consequences for businesses “near the US border.

When asked why the removed requirement will not apply to Americans entering Canada, Duclos said the expert panel provides important advice, but health officials are also looking for other sources, including the emergence of the Delta variant and the levels of pressure on healthcare systems in Canada.

He also said that the infection rate per capita in the United States is four times higher than in Canada, while in the United Kingdom it is 10 times higher.

“All of these circumstances lead the agency to keep moving forward, evolving over time, but always be prudent and vigilant when it comes to protecting the health and safety of Canadians,” Duclos said.

Public Health Director Dr. Theresa Tam added that Canada’s health care systems are “fragile,” pointing to recent waves of infection that flooded Alberta and Saskatchewan hospitals. “Now is not the time to lower our guard,” he said.

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With the testing requirement for Canadians set to be removed, COVID rates are increasing in western New York and Michigan, where vaccination levels are dramatically lower than Ontario and mask mandates are higher. weak or nonexistent. It is not unusual to walk into a store and see only a small fraction of customers wearing masks, for example.

Anyone bound for Buffalo or bound for Detroit and the attractions of professional sports, shopping and restaurants should be extremely cautious, even if fully vaccinated, said Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s chief medical officer for health.

“As soon as you cross the border into Michigan, into New York, you’re seeing disease rates five to six times higher than ours in Ontario,” he told the Star during a briefing.

“If you’re ready to take that risk, go ahead, control your symptoms when you return. Even vaccinated with two doses, you can get COVID-19. “

On Friday, Michigan issued a public health advisory recommending that all people over the age of two wear masks in indoor gatherings, regardless of their vaccination status, with cases in the range of 7,000 daily and about 17 percent of all people. who are tested positive for COVID.

Ontario, with a population one-third larger than Michigan’s, has an average of 625 daily cases and about 2.6 percent of people swabbed test positive for the virus. While 86 percent of Ontario residents are twice vaccinated, the rate is only 55 percent in Michigan.

“We are at another crucial point,” said Elizabeth Hertel, director of the state Department of Health and Human Services. “We have the opportunity to turn the tide and change these rising numbers.”

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In Western New York, 9.3 percent of people tested for COVID are positive, and Governor Kathy Hochul warned this week during a stop in Buffalo that re-imposition may be necessary. restrictions to slow the rapid spread of the virus with Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in the US The season is approaching.

“This is a high transmission area,” he said.

Ottawa also plans to change the rules to require that more incoming business travelers be fully vaccinated. Beginning Jan. 15, professional and amateur athletes, including athletes from leagues like the NHL and the NBA, will need to be fully vaccinated to enter Canada, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said Friday.

People traveling to reunite with their families, international students over the age of 18, most temporary foreign workers and truck drivers will also need to be fully vaccinated to enter Canada after that date, Mendicino said.

The exceptions will continue to apply to agricultural and food processing workers, marine crews, refugees and some children, who will still need tests before and after entering the country, as well as quarantine requirements.

Canada also announced Friday that it would add three new vaccines to its list of recognized COVID-19 injections: Sinopharm, which was developed by a Chinese state pharmaceutical company; Sinovac, another Chinese-made drink; and COVAXIN, a vaccine developed in India. All three were recently approved by the World Health Organization.

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