Flying to the United States is about to get a bit more complicated.
All international air travelers — Canadians included — will be required to provide proof of a negative COVID test done 24 hours before arriving in the United States.
The new measure from the White House comes with the emergence of the Omicron variant that is raising more questions about the next phase of the pandemic.
“I’m announcing today that all inbound international travelers must test within one day of departure regardless of their vaccination status or nationality,” US President Joe Biden said on Thursday.
He added that the move “provides an added degree of protection as scientists continue to study the Omicron variant.”
Under the current system, international travelers had to test negative three days before departure to the US
Right now, fully-vaccinated Canadians crossing into the US by land have no such testing requirement.
For those re-entering Canada at land border crossings — for trips lasting less than 72 hours — there is no testing requirement.
Canada, meanwhile, has so far exempted US visitors from stringent new rules requiring all other foreign air travelers to get tested upon arrival and self-isolate while awaiting the results.
Those rules were announced Tuesday due to concerns about the spread of the Omicron variant.
Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the government would consult with provinces and territories on whether to impose similar measures on visitors from the US
It was unclear whether a decision was imminent.
The travel industry, which relies on a steady, free flow of people between Canada and the US, is worried.
“It’s vital that any further government response is founded in science,” said Dave MacNeil, Chief Executive Officer of Festivals and Events Ontario, in a statement.
“After 21 months of closures, restrictions and uncertainty that have decimated the tourism and travel industry, we must ensure that we work to protect both the health of our province and also the health of our economy.”
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The battered industry — only recently showing glimmers of renewed life — is pleased with the prudence in the face of the new variant but eager to get back to normal.
“I think it’s not surprising that that is what the United States is going towards right now because at the moment we just don’t know enough about the variant,” said Chris Bloore, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario.
“We have obviously had a pretty catastrophic 21 months in the industry and are finally looking forward to a potentially new year and a new start.”