A new pilot initiative aimed at easing the strict mandatory 14-day quarantine requirement will see returning Canadian residents and foreign nationals who are permitted to enter the country being offered a new COVID-19 testing option in Alberta.

Canada has been enforcing a strict quarantine for any returning residents, and travel rules that have effectively barred all tourists from entering the country, as well as an ongoing border closure with the neighboring US. The scheme will explore the feasibility of using a rigorous testing and monitoring program as a strategy to reduce the mandatory quarantine period while keeping Canadians safe. Premier of Alberta, Jason Kenney, announced that the virus-testing option will be offered at the Coutts land border crossing in southern Alberta and at Calgary International Airport from November 2. The voluntary screening will be available for foreign essential workers who are exempt from the current federal travel ban, and any Canadian citizens returning to the country through Alberta.

Kayaker on the Bow river near Banff in Alberta, Canada
Canadian citizens returning through Alberta can participate in the program © Alexander Chlum/Shutterstock

Travelers who participate will receive a COVID-19 test upon entry into Canada before proceeding into the required quarantine period. Once the test comes back negative, they will be permitted to leave their place of quarantine, as long as they commit to getting a second test on day six or seven after arrival at a community pharmacy participating in the pilot program.

What travel looks like in Canada in 2020

They will also be required to follow enhanced preventive health measures, such as wearing masks in public places and avoiding visiting high-risk groups.

Mount Athabasca in Canada from Icefields Parkway, with wild flowers in the foreground
Alberta is trialing a new quarantine-relieving program  ©Laurens Hoddenbagh/Shutterstock

Those who choose not to participate in the pilot will have to abide by the legal requirement to quarantine for 14 days after entering the country. “We are excited to launch this bold new pilot project to look at ways to reduce quarantine periods while protecting the health of Albertans," says Tyler Shandro, Alberta's minister of health. "Safety is our top priority. All participating travelers will be closely monitored to ensure that the pilot is not resulting in any increased risk of exposure for Albertans.” 

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