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Are couple reunions 'essential'? – Answers to your questions about travel during COVID-19

Last Updated Jun 4, 2020 at 2:11 pm PDT

An Air Canada Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft is shown next to a gate at Trudeau Airport in Montreal on March 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Is picking up a pet, meeting a newborn or going to a second home in the U.S. considered an 'essential' trip?

Do I need to self-isolate after travelling within Canada?

Can I cross the U.S.-Canada border to reunite with my partner?

When you have questions, NEWS 1130 Gets Answers.

We’ve been getting a lot of questions about travelling during the pandemic both within Canada and abroad. People want to know when they have to self-isolate, whether the ban on non-essential travel between the U.S. and Canada applies to them and when – if ever – things will go back to normal.

We’ve answered several of your travel questions below.

Derek: “I’m currently working in [a] camp in Alberta. We’ve had zero cases of COVID here. I’ve been here for almost three months. Will I have to isolate if I fly from Edmonton to Nanaimo?”

Marilyn: “If my son and my [18-month-old] grandson travel by air from Alberta to Ontario for a two-week visit, would they have to self isolate [at] either end of their trip?”

Tania: “I’ll be travelling from Quebec to Alberta in the later part of June. Will I be required to isolate there?”

None of these people will have to self-isolate after travelling.

B.C., Alberta, and Ontario do not require Canadians to quarantine following domestic travel.

Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick all require domestic travellers to isolate upon arrival.

All travelers entering Canada from abroad are required to self-isolate for 14 days.

Since late March, people showing symptoms of COVID-19 have been banned from domestic airplanes and trains and health officials have urged Canadians to cancel any non-essential travel within the country as well as abroad.

“Obviously, if anyone is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, they should not go out, they should stay home, they should not travel,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said while announcing travel restrictions in March. “We are giving further tools to airlines and rail companies to ensure that anyone exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms does not travel.”

Airplane passengers are also required to wear non-medical masks while in transit, including at screening checkpoints.


“Can I cross the border to pick up a package at Point Roberts? Is that considered a transfer of goods?”

Bruce: “I purchased a new Airstream travel trailer in New Jersey [and] was scheduled to pick it up the week that the border closed. It’s fully paid for. Could I get permission to go and get it?”

“I have purchased a puppy in Washington State. I had planned on crossing the border mid-June to pick up my pet and return the very same day. I will self-quarantine for 14 days if required. How do I go about getting approval for this day trip during COVID?”

No, no, and no. All five of these scenarios have been deemed non-essential travel, which is banned between the U.S. and Canada until at least June 22.

Janice: “I live in Windsor and have a grandchild to be born soon in Ohio. Can I cross for a period of time and then come back home?”

“We are Canadian. Our daughter is Canadian and is married to an American. She has a green card and works in [New York City]. She is having her second baby in Florida by c-section, which is scheduled for July 1st. She had many delivery issues with her first child. We would like to fly to Florida on June 16, so that we could quarantine for 14 days, and then be able to look after our grandchild and be there to support our daughter when the new baby is born. We are very nervous that our daughter may have complications. Would we be able to cross the Canadian/US border on June 16 2020?”

If these grandparents-to-be fly into the U.S., they should be able to enter the country. The American government has closed only its land border to non-essential travel.

“This action does not apply to air, rail, or sea travel at this time, but does apply to commuter rail and ferry travel,” the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Canada explain online.

“I am a Canadian citizen but a medical student in the U.S. Can I still cross the border?”

Yes. Both the U.S. and Canada have deemed travel to attend post-secondary school as essential. You will probably need to provide proof of enrolment at the border or airport.


“When will flights to Mexico be allowed or reopened?”

Both WestJet and Air Canada have suspended flights between Canada and Mexico as demand for those routes has plummeted. Air Canada plans to resume some flights to Cancun and Mexico City in June, while WestJet has extended its suspension of international flights through June 25.

But other airlines, including Aeromexico and United Airlines, continue to fly between Canada and Mexico.

While there is a ban on non-essential travel between the U.S. and Canada, no such restrictions exist for Mexico.

“There are no restrictions, but it is not recommended,” Patricia De La Maza, executive assistant to Mexico’s consul general in Vancouver, told NEWS 1130.

The Canadian government has issued a blanket advisory against all non-essential travel outside the country.

“As foreign governments implement strict travel restrictions and as fewer international transportation options are available, you may have difficulty returning to Canada or may have to remain abroad for an indeterminate period,” the advisory says.


Rosie: “My parents have Fijian passports [that are] expiring. The only place in North America that I am aware they can get the passports renewed is in Washington D.C. Can you please confirm: Are they able to go to Washington [to get their passports] renewed and come back to Canada?”

Rosie’s parents probably won’t be allowed to enter the U.S. Jason Givens, a U.S. Customs and Border Control spokesperson, said every situation is unique and border agents make judgment calls based on the “totality of the traveler’s circumstances” but travelling to an embassy or consulate does not meet the criteria for essential travel.


Roy: “I am a US citizen and a permanent resident of Quebec. My wife is a Canadian citizen. We own a second home in Florida. Are we able to cross the U.S. border to spend six months at our Florida home?”

Roy could go to his place in Florida, but he would have to leave his wife behind. The mutual ban on non-essential between the U.S. and Canada allows people to enter a country in which they hold citizenship. Because Roy’s wife is not a U.S. citizen and visiting a second home isn’t considered essential, she wouldn’t be allowed to enter the U.S., Givens explained.


Andrea: “My partner and I have been separated by the border closure since March 21, 2020 and it has taken a huge mental and emotional toll on me. Is being with your significant other essential?”

Andrea probably won’t be able to reunite with her partner anytime soon.

The Canada Border Services Agency says it does not consider “family ties alone” as essential travel.