The European Union has announced that Canada, and some other countries, will be removed from the list of safe countries with regard to COVID-19.
Canada is suffering from Omicron variant
In Canada, COVID-19 cases are increasing rapidly due to the spread of the Omicron variant. Whereas the country seemed to have the virus under control last year, and was therefore able to open its borders to tourists, the pressure on the health care system is now increasing. The number of hospital admissions has exceeded 10,000 for the first time. 1148 patients are in intensive care. On 5 January, the hospital occupancy rate was still 5000. In almost two weeks, this number has doubled. The majority of infections occur in the provinces of Quebec and Ontario.
The number of deaths is not rising as fast. The average number of deaths caused by COVID-19 per week in Canada is currently 116. The number of new infections also seems to be levelling off. This is largely due to the high vaccination coverage in the country. 82% of eligible residents aged five and older have been fully vaccinated. Recently, the Canadian government approved a new COVID-19 pill, Paxlovid, produced by Pfizer. The pill can be used in adult subjects with mild to moderate COVID-19 complaints who belong to a risk group. The pill is not yet approved for use in persons under 18 years of age, or in persons who have already been hospitalised due to a COVID-19 infection.
EU opinion is not binding for Member States
Due to the current situation in Canada, the European Union has decided to remove the country from the list of safe countries with respect to the coronavirus. The list has been updated every 2 weeks since June 2020. The list of safe countries currently includes South Korea, New Zealand and China. Besides Canada, Australia and Argentina are also removed from the list. The EU thinks that the COVID-19 situation in these countries is so serious that non-essential travel to EU Member States should be restricted.
The advice is not binding for EU member states. This means that they may decide themselves whether to introduce travel restrictions for these countries. The coronavirus vaccines made it possible for many countries to reopen their borders to international travellers. This gives member states more flexibility to decide whether to follow the advice of the EU.
Currently, fully vaccinated passengers travelling to the UK from Canada must pre-order a COVID-19 test and take it before day 2 after arrival in the UK. They also have to fill out a passenger locator form 48 hours before entering the UK and don‘t need to quarantine. Not fully vaccinated passengers must take a COVID-19 test in the 2 days before they travel to the UK. Furthermore, they must book and pay for PCR-tests on day 2 and day 8, which must be taken after arrival in the UK. Not fully vaccinated passengers also need to complete a passenger locator form in the 48 hours before entering the UK.
Consequences for travel to Canada
It is unlikely that the European Union‘s decision will have a negative impact on travel to Canada from the EU. Since 7 September 2021, Canada has again allowed European travellers to travel to the country. However, they must be fully vaccinated and provide a negative test result that must not be older than 72 hours. Applying for an eTA Canada is also mandatory. This can be done via the digital eTA form. Travellers who have tested positive for COVID-19 may also submit a positive test result that was issued 14 to 180 days before departure. Children under the age of 12 do not need to be fully vaccinated.
In addition to applying for an eTA online, one must also upload health information (vaccination certificate and test result) in the government app, ArriveCAN.