Canada is extending the COVID-19 restrictions for travellers from China, Hong Kong, and Macau that were set to expire on Feb. 5, citing the need to protect the health-care system and concerns about the lack of scientific data from Beijing despite a “dramatic increase” of cases in the country.
Last December, the government announced temporary pre-boarding test requirements and arrival screening for travellers coming from these regions. The measures took effect on Jan. 5 and were set to expire on Feb. 5.
“On February 4, 2023, at 12:01 a.m. EST, Canada intends on extending these current health measures for travellers arriving on flights from these regions, regardless of nationality or vaccination status. The requirements are expected to remain in effect until April 5, 2023, 12:01 a.m. EDT,” the government said in a statement on Feb. 2.
Ottawa said the decision to extend the existing COVID-19 measures was based on several factors, including the continued reports of a “dramatic increase of COVID-19 cases in China” since the regime lifted its restrictions on border travel starting Jan. 8. Another reason for the extension is concerns about the limited epidemiological data made available by Chinese authorities, including those related to genomic sequencing and potential variants of concern.
Ottawa said it also took into account the potential impacts of China’s reopening on Canada’s health care system, as well as responses of allied countries and international organizations toward Beijing’s swift and mass reopening after three years of strict lockdowns under its draconian “zero-COVID” policy.
“Despite the data provided by China thus far, on-going gaps in data availability remain a significant concern,” the statement said. “Extending these temporary health measures will provide time for new, reliable data sources to be made available and allow time for expected domestic waves in China to subside.”
A number of countries around the world have put in place travel restrictions in response to China’s reopening in January. The United States also implemented a pre-boarding test requirement for all air passengers aged two and older from China, Hong Kong, and Macau, effective since Jan. 5.
Travellers aged 12 and older from mainland China seeking to enter the United Kingdom are asked to take a pre-boarding test no more than two days before their scheduled flights and must show a negative COVID-19 test result. This applies to all direct and indirect flights from mainland China, and applies to passengers who have made one or more stops in other countries or territories before arriving in England, which includes Hong Kong or Macao.
Ottawa said the border measures will continue to be reassessed as more data and evidence become available.