Canada will lift its COVID-19 testing requirements for travellers from China, Hong Kong and Macau Friday morning, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) announced Thursday.
The move comes nearly three weeks before the measures were set to expire and quickly follows the lifting of similar requirements by the United States.
Since Jan. 5, air travellers arriving in Canada on flights originating from the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong or Macau that are two years of age and older have been required to present a negative COVID-19 test before boarding the aircraft to Canada.
Those rules will now expire at 12:01 a.m. ET Friday, PHAC said in a statement.
“This means that there will no longer be any federal COVID-19 border measures in place after that time,” the agency added.
The testing requirements were put in place by Canada, the U.S. and many other countries as China battled a surge in COVID-19 infections after lifting its “zero-COVID” measures late last year, allowing residents to travel both within and outside the country for the first time in nearly three years.
New COVID-19 testing mandate for travellers from China
The surge in cases overwhelmed Chinese hospitals and led to tens of thousands of deaths since December, and prompted fears that a new variant of the virus could take hold in other parts of the world and prolong the pandemic.
At the time, countries that imposed testing requirements on travellers from China, Hong Kong and Macau said the measures were necessary to ensure new variants could be detected, accusing Beijing of not sharing complete health data.
“Ongoing gaps in data availability” from China was the reason given by Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos when the measures were extended for two more months in February.
China has insisted it has been transparent throughout the surge, which has since returned to relatively normal infection levels after an aggressive vaccination campaign. The country declared last month it had achieved a “decisive victory” over COVID-19.
PHAC said Thursday that wastewater sampling in Canada has not detected the appearance of any new variants of concern.
“In addition, the COVID-19 situation in both China and Canada has improved, and the Canadian healthcare systems remain stable,” it added.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rescinded its own testing requirements for those travellers last Friday.
On Tuesday, China announced it will reopen its borders to tourists and resume issuing all visas to travellers, one of the last countries to do so since the pandemic began.
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