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Health care workers wait for airline passengers at a COVID-19 testing centre, at Trudeau Airport, in Montreal, on Feb. 19.Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

All air travellers entering Canada, except for those coming from the United States, will now need to be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival at the airport and isolate until they get their results, even if they are fully vaccinated against the virus.

The new measures come as public health officials around the world warn of the potentially dangerous new Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the government will consult with provinces and territories Tuesday evening, before bringing in similar measures for travellers coming from the U.S.

The federal government is also expanding its border closure to foreign nationals who have recently travelled through three more African countries where officials first became aware of the new variant.

The ban will now apply to Egypt, Malawi, and Nigeria, in addition to the seven southern African countries announced last week.

Those countries are South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Namibia and eSwatini.

Canadians and permanent residents who recently travelled through the 10 countries will be subject to mandatory quarantine.

Travellers who choose to leave the country should be aware that COVID-19 protection measures could change at any moment, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said at a briefing Tuesday.

That could also lead to delays at the border, said Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino.

“Our border service officers will never compromise the health and safety of Canadians for the sake of border wait times,” Mendicino said.

Finally, the government has requested guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization about whether it should bring in new standards on the use of COVID-19 vaccine booster doses in the face of the new variant.

“We are explicitly asking NACI to come up quickly with a revised view on where and how and to whom these boosters should be administered,” Duclos said.

Global authorities reacted with alarm on Friday to a new coronavirus variant detected in South Africa, with the EU and Britain among those tightening border controls as researchers sought to find out if the mutation was vaccine-resistant.


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