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You'll need a negative COVID-19 test to cross land borders into Canada starting next week

In an effort to further reduce the number of COVID-19 cases coming into Canada, the federal government will soon require all non-essential travellers to show negative test results at land borders before entering the country.

The new rule will, in theory, apply to visitors from anywhere, but really only pertains to people travelling from the United States, as Canada does not share land borders with any other nation.

While we do share some maritime borders with Greenland and a random French island off the East Coast, Canada can legally be accessed by land only through official border crossings in 13 U.S. States: Alaska, and 12 others running along the 8,891 km-long International Boundary.

As of February 15, Canadians and foreign visitors alike will need to present negative, recent, government-approved COVID-19 test results at these border crossings to come into Canada.

And if they don't? They could be turned away or slapped with steep fines.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explained on Tuesday when announcing the new measure that border officers can't legally deny Canadians entry into Canada, but those who don't have proof of a negative COVID-19 test could be fined up to $3,000.

"As of February 15th, when you return to Canada through a land border, you'll need to show a 72-hour PCR [polymerase chain reaction] test, just like air travel," said Trudeau during a media briefing outside Rideau Cottage today.

"What we can do is in cases of no test to show [is] apply a stiff penalty, a fine and demand and ensure a rapid and complete followup to make sure that they are getting tested, that they are being properly quarantined, that they are not putting at risk the safety of other Canadians by returning home without a clear negative test," he continued.

The new land travel measures will complement previously-announced air travel restrictions, though some of the latter have yet to come into effect.

According to the government's website, "all air travellers 5 years of age or older, regardless of citizenship, must provide proof of a negative laboratory test result for COVID-19 to the airline before boarding international flights to Canada."

The test must have been taken within 72 hours of one's scheduled departure time and, while not required to fly within the country, airlines have been instructed to refuse boarding to international travellers who are unable to provide a negative COVID-19 test.

"A pre-arrival COVID-19 molecular test will soon be required for travellers entering Canada by land, with limited exceptions such as commercial truckers," reads the government travel website. "More information will be available soon."

As announced on January 29, air passengers from any international destination, including Canadian citizens, will soon be required to take a COVID-19 molecular test before leaving the airport as well. Following this test, they will need to stay at a designated hotel for 3 nights to await the results — at their own cost.

The government has not yet set a date for when these mandatory airport quarantine rules will come into effect.

Public health officials from all levels of government continue to stress, however, that nobody should be travelling right now for non-essential reasons, by air, land or (presumably) sea.

"As new variants emerge, now more than ever, Canadians should be staying home. For their health and that of their loved ones, Canadians should only be considering travel if it is absolutely essential," said Minister of Foreign Affairs Marc Garneau when the air travel rules were announced.

"With school breaks around the corner, I take this opportunity to remind Canadians that under no circumstance should anyone be planning travel for leisure."

Lead photo by

Ken Lund

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