Pandemic COVID-19 all countries: avoid non-essential travel outside Canada
Updated: November 19, 2020
Original publication: March 14, 2020
The COVID-19 outbreak is a global issue that has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Public Health Agency of Canada is continuing to advise travellers to avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada.
Advice provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada will continue to be re-evaluated based on the evolving situation in Canada and in other countries.
Many foreign governments continue to implement strict travel restrictions and international transportation options continue to be less available. As a result, you may have difficulty returning to Canada, or may have to remain abroad for an indeterminate period. Local authorities abroad may impose control measures suddenly, including movement restrictions such as quarantine. In some countries, travellers may have limited access to timely and appropriate health care should they become ill.
The Government of Canada's Emergency Order under the Quarantine Act requires persons entering Canada by air, land or sea to isolate for 14 days if they have symptoms of COVID-19, or to quarantine for 14 days if they are asymptomatic to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Travel to Canada is also currently being restricted for all foreign nationals coming from any country. These restrictions prohibit foreign nationals, including U.S. nationals, from entering Canada for discretionary (optional) travel purposes. Exemptions to the prohibition exist for certain groups of foreign nationals, for example, temporary foreign workers and persons delivering urgent medical supplies, as long as they do not exhibit symptoms of COVID-19.
COVID-19 is caused by a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause respiratory illnesses. Some coronaviruses can cause no or mild illness, like the common cold, but other coronaviruses can cause severe illness, like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).
Recent evidence indicates that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be transmitted to others from someone who is infected but not showing symptoms. This includes people who:
- have not yet developed symptoms (pre-symptomatic)
- never develop symptoms (asymptomatic)
Symptoms of COVID-19 can vary from person to person, and may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to the virus.
Symptoms may also vary in different age groups.
Some of the more commonly reported symptoms include:
- new or worsening cough
- shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- temperature equal to or over 38oC or feeling feverish
- fatigue or weakness
- muscle or body aches
- new loss of smell or taste
- gastrointestinal symptoms (abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting)
- feeling very unwell
Children have been more commonly reported to have abdominal symptoms, and skin changes or rashes.
Older people and those with a compromised immune system or underlying medical condition(s) are at a higher risk of developing severe disease.
There is no specific treatment for COVID-19. Most people with mild illness will recover on their own.
Recommendations for travellers
Do not travel if you are sick or if you have been in contact with a confirmed or probable COVID-19 case in the past 14 days.
If you are well and must travel, it is important to be aware of the risks involved.
- Follow precautions recommended by local government, public health authority and transportation system officials.
- Travel insurance may be difficult to obtain and may not offer coverage for COVID-19 related medical treatment. Find the contact information for the Canadian embassy or consulate closest to your destination and keep the information with you, in the event that there is an unforeseen lockdown or local health services become overwhelmed.
During your trip:
- Self-isolate for 14 days if you're experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
- Be aware of the local COVID-19 situation and follow local public health advice.
- Know where to go for medical care, including a COVID-19 test.
- Take precautions against respiratory illnesses.
- Avoid closed spaces, crowded places, and close contact.
- Avoid non-essential gatherings.
- Avoid common greetings, such as handshakes.
- Limit contact with people at higher risk like older adults and those with underlying medical conditions or compromised immune systems.
- Keep a distance of at least 2 arms-length (approximately 2 metres) from others.
- In situations where physical distancing is difficult to maintain, wear a non-medical mask or face covering.
All travellers are reminded to follow the health precautions listed below.
Wash your hands:
- Wash your hands often with soap under warm running water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol) only if soap and water are not available. It's a good idea to always keep some with you when you travel.
Practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette:
- Cover your mouth and nose with your arm to reduce the spread of germs.
- If you use a tissue, dispose of it as soon as possible and wash your hands afterwards.
Wear a non-medical mask or face covering:
To protect yourself and others, wear a non-medical mask or face covering when:
- you're in shared indoor spaces;
- you can't maintain a 2-metre physical distance from others;
- advised by the local public health authority.
Monitor your health:
If you become sick when you are travelling, avoid contact with others. If you think you have COVID-19, follow local public health advice regarding seeking care.
Travelling back to Canada:
Do not travel if you become sick with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 prior to your planned return to Canada or if you have been in contact with a confirmed or probable COVID-19 case in the past 14 days.
Plan ahead for delays to your return home, including the financial implications and the practical arrangements (e.g. flight re-booking, etc) you may need to make.
Air travellers are required to undergo a health check prior to boarding. In the event that the air operator observes that the air traveller has COVID-19 symptoms, the air operator will be required to refuse to board the person for travel for a period of 14 days or until a medical certificate is presented that confirms that the symptoms that the person is exhibiting are not related to COVID-19.
Measures requiring all air passengers to have a non-medical mask or face covering to cover their mouth and nose during travel are in effect. Some airlines may conduct a temperature check prior to boarding.
If you do not have a non-medical mask or face covering, you won't be allowed to enter the restricted areas of the airport and continue with your journey.
When travelling by air, travellers will be asked to wear the non-medical mask or face covering:
- at the security screening checkpoints
- at the boarding gate
- during the flight when you can't physically distance from others
- when required by an airline employee, a public health official, staff from the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, or a Canada Border Services Agency officer
If you feel sick or experience any symptoms of COVID-19 during your flight to Canada or upon arrival, you must inform the flight attendant or a Canada Border Services Agent immediately.
If you do not have symptoms but believe you were exposed to someone with COVID-19, report this information to a Canada Border Services Agent on arrival in Canada. This is required under the Quarantine Act. The Canada Border Services Agent will provide instructions for you to follow.
Upon return to Canada:
The Government of Canada has put in place an Emergency Order under the Quarantine Act that applies to all travellers arriving in Canada. The purpose of this Order is to slow the introduction and spread of COVID-19 in Canada.
Compliance with this Order is subject to verification and enforcement. Those in violation may face detention in a quarantine facility as well as fines and/or imprisonment.
Travellers require non-medical masks or face coverings upon arrival in Canada. Travellers can also wear homemade cloth face coverings.
Ensure you have a suitable place of quarantine/isolation that has access to the necessities of life and is not shared with those at risk of more severe disease.
Do not quarantine or isolate in places you can't separate yourself from those who live with you. For example:
- in a group or communal living setting;
- in a household with large families or many people;
- in a shared a small apartment, or have roommates who have not travelled with you; or
- at a camp, student dorm or other group setting where there is close contact and shared common spaces.
It is expected that most travellers will quarantine in their own home or in the same place they are visiting in Canada. If this is not possible, travellers are responsible for making alternative arrangements for quarantine accommodations that are within their own financial means.
A traveller may be transferred to a federal designated quarantine facility if it is deemed necessary by a public health officer designated under the Quarantine Act, and only if travellers are confirmed to have no other suitable quarantine or isolation options available. This measure is used as a last resort.
Use ArriveCAN to speed up your arrival process in Canada and spend less time with border and public health officers. Submit your information easily and securely before arriving in Canada.
Travellers entering Canada must:
- provide a suitable quarantine plan, civic address and information on where you can be contacted during your quarantine period
- undergo screening by a border official
- answer any relevant questions:
- when you arrive in Canada
- during your 14-day period while in quarantine or isolation
- as of November 21, 2020
- submit your information digitally through ArriveCAN before you board your flight to Canada
- report your arrival at your place of quarantine or isolation within 48 hours of entering Canada using ArriveCAN or by calling the 1-833-641-0343 toll-free number
- if you do not have symptoms and are not exempt from mandatory quarantine you must report your symptoms daily using ArriveCAN or by calling the 1-833-641-0343 toll free number
Travellers with symptoms: mandatory isolation
If you have recently returned to Canada and you have symptoms, you must ISOLATE. This is mandatory. If required, immediate medical attention will be provided upon arrival in Canada.
You MUST isolate without delay.
- Go directly to the place where you will isolate, without delay, and stay there for 14 days from the date you arrived in Canada.
- Wear a suitable non-medical mask or facial covering while travelling to the place of isolation
- Practise physical distancing at all times.
- Do not take public transportation. Use private transportation only.
- Avoid contact with others while in transit.
If your symptoms get worse:
- immediately call your local public health authority and follow their instructions.
Travellers without symptoms: mandatory quarantine
If you have recently returned to Canada and you have no symptoms, you must QUARANTINE. This is mandatory. You are at risk of developing symptoms and infecting others.
This means you MUST:
- Go directly to your place of quarantine, without delay, and stay there for 14 days from the date you arrived in Canada.
- Wear a suitable mask or facial covering while in transit.
- Practise physical distancing at all times.
- Use private transportation such as private vehicle to reach your place of quarantine, if possible.
- Avoid contact with others while in transit.
If you develop symptoms within 14 days:
- immediately isolate yourself from others;
- immediately call a health care professional or your local public health authority and follow their instructions.
Some provinces and territories have additional travel restrictions.
Some examples of additional travel restrictions may include:
- prohibiting non-essential travel into the province
- limited access to certain regions within the province
Please refer to the list of provincial and territorial websites for more information.
Note that travellers may also be contacted by provincial/territorial authorities throughout their 14-day quarantine/isolation. If federal and provincial/territorial guidelines differ, travellers should follow the most precautionary and stringent requirements.
As the continued global movement of goods and people and the ongoing delivery of essential services will be important for Canada's response to COVID-19, there are some exemptions to the order to quarantine for classes oftravellers who perform an essential job or function.
If you don't have symptoms of COVID-19 and you're a member of one of the exempt classes of persons listed in the mandatory isolation order, then you are exempt from federal quarantine requirements, however still required to respect the intent of the order in addition to any provincial and local requirements.
Government of Canada COVID-19 information line: 1-833-784-4397.
Registration of Canadians Abroad
Sign up with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service to stay connected with the Government of Canada in case of an emergency abroad or an emergency at home.
- Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Outbreak update
- Travel advice and advisories
- Travel and COVID-19: Your safety and security outside Canada
- Sickness or injury when travelling
- Exposure on flights, cruise ships and at mass gatherings
- If you get sick after travelling
- Travel restrictions, exemptions and advice
- Travel vaccinations
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